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 Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs.
WHY SHOULD YOU CHECK IT OUT?
Narrated by an imprisoned monk, this story “draws inspiration from Russian folklore, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, while incorporating a modern thread about the threat of climate change”. Elena and Ekaterina’s flip-fopped lives are already calling to us. Considering who the author is, we have no doubt that the two girls’ friendship is bound to be mesmerizing and powerful.
The Fabergé egg-style cover is cute and colorful, without being garish or childlike. Each layer of paper terrain brings the eye closer to St. Petersburg–and with a sense of foreboding through the use of muted reds and oranges. Look closely for Baba Yaga’s chicken house!
Author Gregory Maguire is most famously know for his revisionist retelling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz .Maybe you’ve heard of a little book called WICKED? We thought so! He has served as artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Hambidge Center. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts. You can find him online at www.GregoryMaguire.com!
EARLY REVIEWS SAY…
[T]his is an epic rich with references, aphorisms and advice. An ambitious, Scheherazade-ian novel, rather like a nesting-doll set of stories, that succeeds in capturing some of the complexities of both Russia and life itself. (Kirkus Reviews)
Like the matryoshka doll Elena carries, there are a lot of layers to Maguire’s story. Rich, descriptive language will reward readers who like to sink their teeth into a meaty story. (Publishers Weekly)
Hardcover & ebook, 496 pages
Published on September 9th 2014 by Candlewick (ISBN 0763672203)
Enjoy this article? Leave a comment below! And check out all of the great new content from YA Magazine on young adult books, top teen novels, young adult TV shows, movie casting news, young adult literature, and more! Follow us on Twitter @YAmzine.