In this tour de force, master storyteller Gregory Maguire offers a dazzling novel for fantasy lovers of all ages.
Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar's army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg -- a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena's age. When the two girls' lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and -- in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured -- Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs.
With great gusto and enthusiasm, Maguire spins his literary magic on this whimsy of a fairy tale. Set in Tsarist Russia, in the poverty-stricken village of Miersk. Thirteen-year-old Elena Rudina works hard to take care of her ill mother with no food or medicine, and with one brother working abroad and the other conscripted into the army. Ultimately, Elena convinces herself to travel to St. Petersburg to ask the Tsar for help. Meanwhile, Mademoiselle Ekaterina de Robichaux (Cat for short) is traveling with her governess to be presented at the Tsar's ball (also in St. Petersburg). As fate would have it, the train is derailed in a nearby abandoned village. It is there that Cat and Elena meet. The two girls immediately notice that they have similar facial and body features. When the train takes off unexpectedly, Elena is trapped aboard and Cat is sent tumbling out the door and into the path of the folkloric figure Baba Yaga--a hilariously sarcastic child-eating, metal-toothed crone who dwells in a hut carried along on a pair of chicken legs. Baba Yaga forewarns of the disasterous consequences that would come should the natural order not be restored to it's former glory. Cat and Baba Yaga head to St. Petersburg (and Elena) to alert the Tsar. All three characters must band together to restore the world's order and magic. Maguire manages to knit together a tale that incorporates the elememental foundations of known tales such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. This book is a worthwhile adventure that people of all ages will enjoy.
Carla from Books Inc. Airport T3