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Enchantment Hardcover – April 6, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 298 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Enchantment is the story of a Ukraine-born, American grad student who finds himself transported to the ninth century to play the prince in a Russian version of Sleeping Beauty. Early in the story, he muses that in a French or English retelling of the tale, the prince and princess would live happily ever after. But, "only a fool would want to live through the Russian version of any fairy tale."

Although his fears turn out to be warranted, as he and his cursed princess contend with the diabolical witch Baba Yaga--easily Russia's best pre-Khrushchev villain--to save the princess's kingdom, Enchantment is ultimately a sweet story. Mixing magic and modernity, the acclaimed Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game) has woven threads of history, religion, and myth together into a convincing, time-hopping tale that is part love story, part adventure. Enchantment's heroes, "Prince" Ivan and Princess Katerina, must deal with cross-cultural mores, ancient gods, treacherous kinsmen (and fianceés), and ultimately Baba Yaga herself.

Card has a knack for coming across like your nerdy dad at times, when he runs on too long or makes some particularly wince-inducing observation or reference ("Daaad, Bruce Cockburn is not cool!"). But, as you might expect of a good dad, as uncool as he might be, Card still manages to tell a good bedtime story. --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

Intertwining the story of Sleeping Beauty with Russian mythology, Card (Homebody, etc.) creates an appealing though not potent fairy tale. Ten-year-old Ivan is terrified by, yet drawn to, a beautiful woman frozen in time in the middle of the primordial forest of Russia. More than a decade later, he returns and uses his prowess as a track-and-field star and a promise of marriage to rescue this princess. Echoes of Narnia sound (including some slightly preachy undertones) as Ivan is drawn back into the princess's time. He finds that he has no skills useful in the ninth century, and yet must find a way to defeat the witch Baba Yaga, who has harnessed the power of a god to take over Princess Katerina's kingdom. Ivan brings his betrothed into the modern world to keep her from Yaga's clutches and the pair learn to understand not only each other, but each other's powers and weapons. By the time they return to the fairy-tale world, they are armed with modern-day knowledge and aided by Ivan's relatives, who turn out to be minor Russian deities and witches. In an apparent desire to make his tale believable, Card leaches it of some of its magic, offering up the extraordinary as matter of fact, and his characters lack some of the depth that usually makes his writing so rewarding. His new look at a classic tale is clever, however, adding attractive whimsical twists and cultural confluences to a familiar story. Author tour. (Apr.) FYI: Card has won four Hugos, two Nebulas and one World Fantasy Award.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1st edition (April 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345416872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345416872
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (298 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am probably the only sci-fi/fantasy reader in the United States who read "Enchantment" as her introduction to Orson Scott Card's fiction. As unbelievable as it may sound, I avoided reading every OSC book, despite the fact that my sister and best friend did everything but read "Ender's Game" to me. You see, "EG" was once a class assignment (I chose to read Dickens' "David Copperfield" instead -- talk about your opposite book!), and after that, I refused to read it more out of obstinance than anything else. But I'm glad I read "Enchantment."
Coming right off the heels of Robin McKinley's "Spindle's End," I wasn't sure "Enchantment" would be different enough to hold my attention. I was, fortunately, wrong! The best part about this book, aside from complete characters, effortless narration, and a compelling plot -- no small asides! -- was the fact that it had much more to do with what happened AFTER Ivan kissed and awoke the princess. We learned about her village, ancient Slavic culture and religion, magic (both ancient and modern) and the inner workings of an enchanted princess.
Card handled 8 viewpoints with ease, though of course the dominant ones were Ivan, Princess Katerina, and the witch, Baba Yaga. As I am completely unfamiliar with Russian culture and folklore, I found OSC's version of Baba Yaga a completely hideous and believable villain; I was glad to get her viewpoint throughout the story. I also appreciated OSC's depiction of modern and ancient Russia, which to me are now familiar in my head. He conveys incredible amounts of information in few words, and the plot never lags; though this is a long book, it is a quick read.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm a tough critic, and I don't throw around sentences like "this is the best work of fantasy I've read in a year" without giving the matter some thought. But this is a really superb story. I cannot see where it could have been done better, and I don't say that often.
It's superb because it is told vigorously and plausibly. Assume for a few hours that gods and magic have been real, and that there can be magic bridges across time, and the actions of the characters make perfect sense. They are all intelligent problem-solvers - not only Ivan and his parents and Princess Katarina, but the witch-queen Baba Yaga and her captive Bear-god. At no point does Card feel the need to make a leading character into a dunce or a lunatic to shove the plot along.
Card also avoids many pitfalls which you might be afraid that he fell into, given the subject matter and the fact that he really succumbed to some of them in the "Alvin Maker" series. For example, he does not bog the story down in discussing contemporary post-Soviet politics, or in the fine points of culture and technology in tenth-century Ukraine, nor in determining who the real heroes and villains were in Eastern Europe then, nor does he clutter the volume with every Russian folk tale element ever recorded. Nor, although this book does elaborate on the "Sleeping Beauty" story, is it merely a self-conscious "retelling" of the kind that we fantasy readers have come to dread, often in connection with Arthurian legend. The present and the past are nicely balanced and interwoven, and the center of attention throughout is on the story rather than on its setting and provenance.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I first picked up this book, I expected it to be yet another one of those "modern Jewish person goes back in time to experience some aspect of Jewish history" trips. (Why is it that SF writers always have to send the Jews back into the past? Don't they think we will have a future?) Yes, there is an aspect of that here, but it's much, much more. The focus is not so much on JEWISH history as it is on RUSSIAN history, although Jewishness does play an important part.

The year is 1975, the place is Soviet Russia. Young Ivan "Vanya" Smetski finds out he is Jewish when his father decides to claim his Jewish heritage in order to emigrate to Israel and then, hopefully, to the United States. Politically, it is a time when America is putting pressure on the USSR to release more Soviet Jews, but the Soviets react the other way and clamp down on letting Russian Jews leave. The result is that Ivan's father loses his university position, the Smetskis lose their apartment, and the family ends up living with a cousin named Marek on a little farm near Kiev. At this point, little Vanya is 10 years old.

One day, while out in the woods by the farm, Vanya discovers a clearing with a strange round pit full of leaves. Something is moving in the pit -- a monster? The leaves rustle away and he thinks he sees a woman's face rising up among the leaves. He runs away in terror, but never forgets that place, although he thinks of it as some sort of nightmare or hallucination.

Years later, the Smetskis are living in America, and Vanya, now calling himself "Ivan" with the English pronunciation, is working on his Ph.D. thesis about ancient Russian fairy tales.
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