by Catherynne M. Valente

Tor, $24.99, 352 pages

Exciting, inventive, and thrilling are not words that would typically be associated with a Russian folklore novel but they definitely apply to Deathless by author Catherynne M. Valente. The novel follows the journey of Marya Morevna, as she goes from young child to bride of Koschei, brother of the fearsome witch Baba Yaga.  As she goes through many trials and test as her wedding approaches, Marya is determined not to have the same fate as the previous wives of Koschei.

Fairy tales were designed to frighten children but tend to seem like quaint tales for adults. This book is an exception to this for it creates a sense of unease that moves toward terror as the characters move toward what seems like impending doom. The author is skilled at creating a foreboding atmosphere throughout the book, aided by the physical and political setting. The characters of Baba Yaga and Koschei are truly disturbing, both in their changing appearances and their lack of humanity or care for the main character or humans, in general. The author has created a deliciously frightening tale for adults – this is definitely not a book to read right before bedtime.

Reviewed by Barbara Cothern