This is one of those books which I stumbled across on an errant marketing email from Amazon. The cover looked pretty and I am a complete sucker for advertising – seriously just show me pizza on TV and I must have it NOW! Anyway once I clicked through it and read the blurb it did pique my interest and god i’m so glad it did!
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honour the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil. After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales. (Goodreads)
The book is based around a Russian landed family in the good old olden days of peasants, farming and fairytales coming to life! The main character is Vasilisa the daughter of a lord in the northern Russian woods. She is also the daughter of a woman of “sight”, her mother died in childbirth after choosing to birth this last child, this child that she knew would carry on the secret talents of her and her mother before her. Lucky for Vasilisa and her family that her mother did insist on bringing this last child into the world, as it is Vasilisa and her many talents that alone can protect and save not only her family but her whole village.
I have read books based in Russia before which I think helped to prepare me for some of the language and names used. If you haven’t read it before it can be a bit confusing when each character seems to have 3 or 4 names, trying to keep track can definitely get complicated! However, Arden has done a really good job of keeping this book true to the style without losing the reader too much.
Honestly, this book is one I have really enjoyed and already recommended to friends and family! It is wonderfully written, it really does draw you in to the family, round their warm oven on the long bitterly cold winter nights. I have found myself double checking my own oven for a Domovoi – wishing more than expecting sadly! Arden has done exceptionally well in introducing you to this family as well as lightly and gently weaving the webs of family life with the webs of fairytales. She makes the magic part of every day life, even for those who do not know or see the magic and creatures that surround their lives.
It is very rare that I read a book and cannot see where it is taking me, however this book brought me along for the ride brilliantly. I was not always able to predict who would do what or how and this meant that I got to enjoy some lovely twists and turns. However, my favourite bit is the way that she creates and draws the reader into the magic of these lands. The magic, the creatures and characters are so realistic you can almost see them and it makes you wish for a walk through the woods with the utterly compelling heroine.
What makes me even more in love with this accidental find is that I have now found out that it is part of a TRILOGY! #bringiton