I was given an ARC of this book.
4 out of 5 stars
For those of you who love fairy tales, this one is straight up out of that tradition. Anouk is a young healer with a gift for herbs who has to run away from an undesirable marriage into an adventure straight out of classical Russian fairy tales. Baba Yaga, Koschei the deathless, and the Rusalkas all play a role (if you do not recognize those names, go read some Andrew Lang and check back in after). Anouk’s kindness, determination, and knowledge of herbs are the only things that stand between her village and a brutal war with the trolls.
It is written true to form, with little to no internal dialogue and action taking up most of the text. This book pieces together lots of Russian and Eastern European fairy tale characters which I really enjoyed. The description of the forest and other landscapes was more vivid than you would usually find in fairy tales, but since this is a full-length novel the author had some room to include it without breaking the rhythm or mood of the story. Magic takes place with really no explanation needed, and randomly helping an animal in distress is always a good idea. There is little humour in this book, but lots of imagination and wonder. This is a great contemporary rewrite of the Russian fairytale tradition that really captures the spirit of the original tradition.
I am still unsure whether this is meant for older elementary or junior high students. I guesses elementary just because of the cover design and the age of the protagonist, but I think it could still be a valuable read for older kids (or adults) who love magic and fairy tales. I very much look forward to other books by this author if they are all similar in quality to this one.