Release Date: December 1st 20014
Publisher: Walker Books Australia.
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A fantasy set in Tsarist Russia.
Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar’s army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg — a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. When the two girls’ lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and — in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured — Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs
Different is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about how to describe this book. It may be a little too different for some, but I loved it. The story is told by an old man, which was a little disconcerting at first, considering this is young adult, but once I finished the book I realised it was actually a really clever way of telling the story. This old man is no ordinary old man, he has a little magic of his own. He can see into the lives of others, and the lives he is focusing on are two very different thirteen year old girls: Elena, a poor girl from the country, and Cat – or Ekaterina – a rich girl on a train on her way to meet a prince in Saint Petersburg. Elena’s mother is dying, the men of her village have been taken for service to the tsar, including her brothers, and she is starving. But when a train breaks down in her village, everything is about to change for both Elena, and Cat. Cat, eager to escape her stuffy old aunt, and Elena, eager for food, start talking with one and other. On one of the days that they are talking, Cat tells Elena about the present she has for the Tsar and shows Elena. But the train starts moving and the two girls lives are switched by accident.
This small event starts a journey of mystery and magic for both girls. Along the way we meet magical creatures of Russian folklore and Maguire has brought them to life in such vivid ways.
Both girls, and the magical beings that surrounded them, sunk into my heart and pulled me along with them. You have to read this book for the infamous witch Baba Yaga and her magical house on chicken legs, oh the things that came out of her mouth! Not only will you get a fresh magical adventure, but a humours one as well, mostly thanks to the witch. I swear Maguire had me convince she was as real as you and I.
My only complaint is that it was on the longish side. A little slow to start, and a little slow to finish, but once I got used to the omniscient point of view, I dove right into this tale and didn’t want to stop reading it. Saying that, I thought it was clever, highly imaginative, highly magical, with completely captivating characters. I enjoyed Maguire’s writing style and found it easy to immerse into this world. If you love magic and are looking for a lighter, fairytale type read, and don’t mind a bit of a slow pace at times, this one is for you.
You can add it to your Goodreads HERE.