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Deathless Paperback – February 14, 2012
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“For fans of Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, and the like, this is essential.” ―Library Journal, starred review
“Romantic and blood-streaked, and infused with magic so real you can feel it on your fingertips―Deathless is beautiful.” ―Cory Doctorow, bestselling author of Little Brother
“Stories, unlike people, don't stay dead forever, or not always. They can live again―but only under very special circumstances. They must be revived by the miraculous touch of a very rare class of being, a kind of multi-classed genius/scholar/saint, who can restore them to life. Catherynne Valente is such a being.” ―Lev Grossman, bestselling author of The Magicians, on Ventriloquism
About the Author
Catherynne M. Valente's first book, The Orphan's Tales, was released when Cat was twenty-seven. In the Night Garden won the James Tiptree Jr. Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Her next novel, Palimpsest, was nominated for the Hugo Award and is a Locus Award finalist, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a New York Times bestseller that earned starred reviews from all three major review outlets. Valente lives on a small island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, and one cat.
Top customer reviews
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Since my early teens I’d been interested in Russia when I began learning bits about the language, culture, food and music. My admiration for their culture has been constant since then and when I find a book inspired by anything Russian my interest is immediately piqued—which is what drew me to Deathless. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful book that I feel was so true to Russian culture.
Not only did I adore her interpretation of the culture, but the story itself is incredibly captivating. Throughout the entire book of Marya’s life I felt I could relate to her in so many ways and I think many women could agree the same. There’s no censorship here—Catherynne tells it all and it hits home. I learned and realized so many things about life by reading this book and am incredibly grateful for that. Nothing is better than a book that teaches you the things hidden in dark corners that most people like to ignore and pretend don’t exist. Exploring those depths is liberating and that’s exactly what this book is.
Deathless will keep you reading, keep you thinking, and by the end you’ll be absolutely amazed and forever changed.
Note: attached image is a personal fan art of Koschei
I can't recommend this tale to people that demand traditional pacing and concrete characterization. This is a subtle piece of work, and if you go into it unfamiliar with Russian folk tales (like I did) you need to be willing to either punch a few names into google or take some of the thematic elements on faith. Either way, I found myself enjoying Deathless, and that was due in large part to the author's exceptional grasp on language and imagery. I'll be sure to find my way to another of her novels soon.
I'm normally very skeptical of "re-tellings" and "adaptations" of folklore, especially when done by people who don't have deep roots in the tradition. (Yes, "Valente" is not a Russian name.) There are so many Evangeline Waltons, Lloyd Alexanders, and Marion Zimmer Bradleys out there who have a tin ear and don't get it, or (worse) have an ideological axe to grind, and don't care what damage they do to the received tradition. Their works may be entertaining on their own terms, but they damage the folk tradition instead of enriching it.
This book is not like theirs.
Catherynne Valente's reworking of the story of Marya Morevna, Prince Ivan, and Koschei the Deathless conquered me completely. She sets her story in the context of the Russian Revolution,Stalinism, and the Second World War--besides Koschei, Marya, Baba Yaga and the rest, there are very lightly drawn appearances by Lenin, Stalin, Tsar Nicholas and his family, Rasputin, Kerensky, and the Wehrnacht, among many others, and the book ends in the siege of Leningrad.
The brilliance of the book is that all this modern relevance detracts not at all from the fairy-tale atmosphere, but pulls you right into it, and eventually rips your heart right out of your chest. (There's a faint 50-Shades whiff at the beginning, but it's part of the subtlety of the love/power relationship between Marya and Koschei, and it recedes from view very quickly as Marya's character develops.)
If you don't mind losing at least one night's sleep reading under the covers, I can't recommend this book enough.
Most recent customer reviews
DEATHLESS is a book you need to read with a strong cup of tea.Read more