Saturday, November 16, 2013

Russian Folklore

I seem to be coming across many more novels these days surrounding the Russian/Slavic theme. Code Breakers was an excellent insight into British-Russian relations during the first World War and Lost Girl on TV has covered some of the Russian demon baddies in their episodes. Now I find myself researching the old stories in full and finding how they may have influenced many of the folktales I grew up reading (or maybe the other way around? Which came first the chicken or the egg?).

Mistress of the Solstice by Anna Kashina

What drew me to the book was a new avenue of folklore for which I am not currently familiar. I am a sucker for folklore. I have read the Brothers Grimm, Goethe, Rhymes of Mother Goose, Aesop's Fables, and other lesser known Western folklore. I have also recently become familiar with the tales from the Celtic histories of Ireland (who isn't intrigued by a giant named McCool?). The Slavic stories were completely new to me, yet so very familiar. Baba Yaga is remarkably close to the witch in Hansel and Gretel. With the lack of travel, but for a very few rich people back in the "day," it would be easy for a well researched author to spread folktales from other cultures under the guise of the home culture.

Not knowing quite what to expect from the story, it started somewhat slowly for me. As I pushed along, the pacing hit the right stride, though. This was a very moving story. I was carried along by the anguish of the main characters and the intrigue from all the new Immortals of the Russian folktale pantheon. I couldn't help myself but further research these interesting characters. The main adventurer is appropriately named Ivan, and he has appropriately set out on a quest that has yet to be fully explained.

I was fascinated by the rich depth to the folklore and the interaction with each mythological god in Ivan's quest. MotS really captured the quest driven novel exceptionally. I was rooting for the hero all along the way and holding my breath during his tougher challenges. I even managed to answer two of Leshy's riddles in the blink of an eye. MotS was a very engaging, interactive novel. I was truly pleased with the divergence from the epic fantasy binge I have recently been undergoing.

I would recommend this novel to many. Especially those looking to broaden their horizons with yet another example of how we are connected as a whole.