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Deathless

by Catherynne M. Valente

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6627710,405 (3.97)112
Set in an alternate version of St. Petersburg in the first half of the twentieth century, Marya Morevna, a clever child of the revolution, is transformed into the beautiful bride of Koschei the Deathless, a menacing overlord.
  1. 30
    The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (flying_monkeys)
    flying_monkeys: Both read like novel-length fairy tales based on Russian folklore. Both embrace their cold, wintry setting to superb effect.
  2. 20
    The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia (ligature)
  3. 20
    Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Euryale)
    Euryale: Another standalone fantasy novel influenced by Eastern European fairy tales, with a clever female protagonist
  4. 10
    The Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins (xenu01)
  5. 00
    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (Lucy_Skywalker)
    Lucy_Skywalker: even though it's quite different :)
  6. 00
    Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (MyriadBooks)
  7. 00
    Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (MyriadBooks)
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» See also 112 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
I started this book great guns and then for some reason I just stopped reading it. It languished on the end table, sad and neglected. Then last week I picked it back up and just ripped through the last 2/3 and it was amazing. Why on earth did I stop reading it?

This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. Lush and so alive with stories and myths. I loved it. ( )
  beentsy | Aug 12, 2023 |
Beautifully written but hella weird. Cathrynne Valente is a supreme word-smith but sometimes I have no idea what she is talking about. Still, it was an interesting venture. ( )
  wonderlande | Jan 1, 2023 |
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I am sure this book was brilliant. On the other hand, brilliance didn't hold my attention very well. I think a major problem is that I didn't know the Russian folktale that this book was based off of, and I spent a good portion of the book feeling like the person at the party who wasn't getting the inside joke. I love fairy and folk tale retellings, but a great portion of my enjoyment of such stories is me seeing how the original tales are twisted into something new and wonderful. I did not get that enjoyment from this book.

By itself, I found the story very good, the prose delicious at times, and the characters fascinating but lifeless. I could not get myself to care about Marya, which was ultimately what kept me from even giving the book 3 stars.

I also really wanted a glossary in the back for Russian terms and characters. (The epilogue lost all its punch when I couldn't remember who one of the characters was, who appeared briefly mid-way through.)

I am going to declare this an aberration and try more of Valente's books because I have heard such fabulous things about her - so fabulous, in fact, that I actually have most of her books in my possession. It's a shame this was the first one I picked up. ( )
  wisemetis | Dec 28, 2022 |
Came across this book by accident. I loved the fairy tale charm of it wrapped around real historical events. ( )
  bookburner451 | Nov 19, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
Deathless performs the highest function of a problematic novel. It reveals more about the writer's technique and strengths than a polished, impregnable work might.
 
Another intricate fantasy from Valente, based on what feels like the entire panoply of Russian folktales. ...scenes, people, myths and history intertwine. It's dazzling but intensely self-involved.
added by melonbrawl | editKirkus Reviews (Feb 1, 2011)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Catherynne M. Valenteprimary authorall editionscalculated
White, BethCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
From the year nineteen forty
I look out on everything as if from a high tower
As if bidding farewell
To that from which I long ago parted.
As if crossing myself
And descending beneath dark arches.
—Anna Akhmatova
Dedication
For Dmitri,
who spirited me away from a dark place
First words
Woodsmoke hung heavy and golden on the shorn wheat, the earth bristling like an old, bald woman.
Quotations
In a city by the sea which was once called St. Petersburg, then Petrograd, then Leningrad, then, much later, St. Petersburg again, there stood a long, thin house on a long, thin street. By a long, thin window, a child in a pale blue dress and pale green slippers waited for a bird to marry her.
“That's how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you'd have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”
The rapt pupil will be forgiven for assuming the Tsar of Death to be wicked and the Tsar of Life to be virtuous. Let the truth be told: There is no virtue anywhere. Life is sly and unscrupulous, a blackguard, wolfish, severe. In service to itself, it will commit any offence. So, too, is Death possessed of infinite strategies and a gaunt nature- but also mercy, also grace and tenderness. In his own country, Death can be kind.
Morality is more dependent on the state of one's stomach than of one's nation.
Death is not like that. [...] You will live as you live anywhere. With difficulty, and grief. Yes, you are dead. And I and my family and everyone, always, forever. All dead like stones. But what does it matter? You still have to go to work in the morning. You still have to live.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Set in an alternate version of St. Petersburg in the first half of the twentieth century, Marya Morevna, a clever child of the revolution, is transformed into the beautiful bride of Koschei the Deathless, a menacing overlord.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei's beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.
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Average: (3.97)
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