Customer Reviews for

Deathless

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted February 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a terrific complicated retelling of a Russian folktale that uses The Revolution era as a backdrop to the saga

    The city has changed names several times over the past century, but currently is called St. Petersburg as everything goes full circle. On Gorokhovaya Street, Marya Morevna was six years old when she saw the bird turn into Lieutenant Gratch of the Tsar's Personal Guard who came to take away her older sister Olga with him. Three years later Lieutenant Zuyok of the White Guard also changed as he came for Tatiana. Finally when Marya was twelve Lieutenant Shulan of the Red Army arrived for the third daughter Anna. Watching the birds change to men come for her older sisters leaves Marya musing over the type of bird her mate will be.

    Koschei the Deathless Tsar of Life arrives for his woman, Marya. However, she must prove herself worthy as Koschei's mate. In that regard Baba Yaga tasks Marya with three impossible assignments; failure to compete all three proves she is not the mate of the Deathless Tsar of Life. Marya begins her Herculean tasks, Marya starts to lose her humanity until she meets the innocent Ivan "The Fool" Nikolayevich, who pulls her back to Mother Russia; leaving her confused with one foot in Koschei's realm and one in the land of her ancestors.

    This is a terrific complicated retelling of a Russian folktale that uses The Revolution era as a backdrop to the saga; in fact Marya becomes a Major-General in the Red Army. Fast-paced with a strong protagonist who keeps the engaging story line focused; readers will appreciate this intriguing look at Bolshevik Russia through a fantasy lens.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Hauntingly beautiful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    Gorgeous and surreal.

    Gorgeous and surreal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2015

    "I am not Koschei the Deathless anymore. After love, no one

    "I am not Koschei the Deathless anymore. After love, no one is what they were before."
    ---

    Wow. I'm sitting here trying to find the words to describe this book, to describe this freaking feeling in my chest.

    I had never heard the story of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless before - which I believe made it a much more richer reading experience. But boy, did it make my heart easier to break!

    The prose in this book is BEAUTIFUL -- it is so poetic, and so funny, and so, so clever. I fell in love with EVERY dang character in this book, even the ones that were terrible. Especially the ones that were terrible.

    I related to Marya completely. [SPOILER:] I felt her conflict between Ivan and Koschei, even when I COULDN'T STAND Ivan and loved Koschei. The writing was good enough to do that. I loved seeing Marya's transition from girl to woman, from innocence to corruption. I never stopped caring or being invested in her during that entire time, which takes a GOOD author. Because there was enough in this book to make me scream and throw it if it hadn't been written well.

    This book broke my heart, and pieced it back together. The character you thought you loved pisses you off, and then redeems themselves. That is the constant pattern in this absolutely enchanting, brilliant work of literature.

    I mean, the character development! [SPOILER:] How Koschei begins one way and ends a totally other. A completely surrendering of self and heart. Oh, it was beautiful.

    I admit, I thought it was going to end terribly. But it didn't. It ended with metaphors hanging in the air like the smell of woodsmoke. "Love" is a synonym with "war" in this book -- and the parallels are freaking amazing. The last few pages had me cracking up [SPOILER:] I mean, BABA YAGA. I LOVE YOU. YOU MADE THIS BOOK SHINE EVEN BRIGHTER THAN IT WOULD HAVE ON ITS OWN. Ugh. She was probably my favorite character, after Zvonok, whom I also loved. I mean, both of them were SO well-written. And so so funny.

    Of course, Koschei will always be my favorite.

    This is one of the very, very rare books that will stay in my heart forever. I learned so much from it. Experienced so much, felt so much. Catherynne M. Valente, you are officially one of my favorite authors. I'll definitely be reading a good chunk more of her books this week.

    And hope, that in the meantime, I can shake this feeling of being bereft from my chest. A sort of hole that is filled and emptied at the same time. This book was amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2014

    Lord Savant

    If you wish to join us, respond here.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2013

    I think of this often; it haunts my brain.  A fairy tale of fire

    I think of this often; it haunts my brain.  A fairy tale of fire burning inside ice.  Devastatingly beautiful, both stark and rich.  Definitely a must for any Valente fan.  This is surely one of her best.  

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  • Posted November 19, 2012

    I enjoyed this book, especially once I got into the flow of it.

    I enjoyed this book, especially once I got into the flow of it. It is written poetically with a lot of the rhythms of a Russian fairy tale telling. I would definitely recommend it to a russophile, especially those familiar with 19th and 20th century Russian history and culture, including themes of east vs. west, and magic vs. realism. I was often reminded (especially in the first half) of Master and Margarita. Familiarity with the Russian language will also help you with the characters and the settings.

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    Ugh.

    I tried, but could not finish the book. Not a good book. It drags...

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    A beautiful fairy tale

    This book is simply amazing.

    The first thing that struck me was the prose itself. It is measured, rhythmic, and beautiful. At the same time it feels intimate. I can imagine an old grandmother (babushka?) sitting in her rocker, surrounded by a semicircle of boys and girls on the cusp of adulthood, telling this story. The not-voice of the narrator rose and fell in my mind. Some parts were like whispers, others like shouts.

    The story itself is similarly engaging. Valente intertwines the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and Civil War neatly with a fantasy story woven out of Slavic folklore. Those tales have never been a big part of my study, so I knew just enough to see one or two things coming. Nevertheless, I never felt lost. The author supplies plenty of background to keep regular readers engaged.

    Throughout, the story maintains the feel of an elegant fairy tale. Strange events and facts lack objective explanation - it's just the way things are. Themes and phrases occur over and over, tying the narrative back to its roots.

    The themes of the story are complex, but don't bog it down. It's a war story, a coming of age story, a story of sex and power, and a story of magic. It's a story about the old world in conflict with the new, and a story about families. Comrade Valente keeps them all in the air at once, rather than putting them end to end which would have given us a long, slow, bloated epic of a thing.

    There are a few troubles with the book, despite the high rating I've given it. The normal Russians are written (and referred to by the monsters) with the jaded eye of someone who has seen how the story ends. Since there are so few such characters, in the end it makes little difference. There are a few editorial goofs as well: In one passage about a shrike (or was it the plover?) one sentence refers to him as a rook; At one point the main characters husband is referred to by another name. These issues were minor in my mind, and didn't really detract from my enjoyment.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

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    Posted April 11, 2011

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    Posted January 20, 2013

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    Posted April 16, 2013

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    Posted May 6, 2011

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    Posted September 21, 2011

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    Posted March 27, 2013

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    Posted March 3, 2012

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    Posted November 27, 2011

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