Sunday, June 28, 2015

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente Review

"Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation."

Deathless is a dark tale, perfect for mature readers and those who love Russian myths. I myself have read few Russian myths, but I find them very interesting. Some of them are dark, some of them are creepy, some of them are mixtures of both. I have never read about Koschei the Deathless, but the author's portrayal of him in this book is of a deeply misunderstood character who entices Marya and the readers. 

The book is about many things. It starts from where Marya is very young and spies men (who are actually birds) taking away her older sisters to be their wives. She starts at the beginning of the book as a child. When Koschei comes to take her away, she is a young girl (about sixteen or seventeen years old). When the war comes, she becomes the warrior and commander it needs. As time marches on, she changes and changes. She becomes cold and numb, and she becomes someone terrible, great, and stunning. She shifts, and her story is amazing. It is amazing because it reflects on tragedy, misery, happiness, and the lack of happy endings. 

(And I can't help but read along.)

Catherynne M. Valente's words are poetic. She has more than a handful (or a basketful) of beautiful quotes and words. I can easily list a few sentences, but I think this one is the most memorable. "You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast." It is pretty, and though Valente's words are hard to adjust to at first, it gets better. Her writing style is a bit unusual, but it stands out. 

The romance between Koschei and Marya is passionate and lively. They are fire together, even though Koschei is cold in the bones. It is an unbalanced relationship, but it gets interesting and layered as their story go on through the years. Their relationship has an edge of happiness, a touch of bittersweetness, and a lot of sorrow. 

The ending is the most heartbreaking part of Deathless. Honestly, after reading that ending, I'm on a roll looking for some books with HEA (Happily Ever Afters). Do you know what gut-wrenching means? Well, you'll figure out what that means by the end of this book. 

Overall, Deathless is a descriptive and magical book that is best recommended for mature readers. (There are some scenes that will raise a lot of eyebrows. Violence and sex are involved.) Time, misery, happiness, joy, darkness, light are all parts that make up the book. From Deathless, this quote summarizes the book up best. "Life is like that.” 

Rating: Four out of Five

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