Young Adult Fantasy
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.Goodreads Overview
Nostalgic, Fun, and Refreshingly Russian
I lived in Russia for 1.5 years so whenever I find books on Russian fairytales I snatch them up as fast as I can! Я люблю Россию! Despite my love for all things Russian, I don’t have too much to say about this story. I feel somewhat. . . sad about this. That isn’t to say Gregory Maguire didn’t write a fascinating story! Egg & Spoon was simply a little underwhelming for me.
One of my favorite series is Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy. Ever since I read her books, my opinion of other novels based on Russian history or folktales is a little biased. If Arden’s Trilogy is the three-course meal of books, Egg & Spoon is like a burger from Five Guys, better than fast food but not the best I’ve ever read.
Maguire’s story had somewhat haphazard pacing, but that fits in well with Baba Yaga’s crazy chicken leg house and skull fence. The only thing that threw me off while reading was the lack of logical conversations and decisions at times. Maguire pointed out common problems certain characters faced because of poverty or loneliness. But these issues never had a lot of impact because his narrator lacked true empathy.
What I did love was his colorful descriptions of St. Petersburg and other settings. He descriptions of such beautiful places kept me reading till the book’s end.
Hum hum hum. I didn’t understand most of the character’s personalities. Elena was understandably driven by desperation because of her family’s situation, but I never felt like I got to know her as a person. Her personality seemed locked away, almost numb. Then again, hunger has a way of driving people’s personalities away.
My favorite character was either Baba Yaga or Ekaterina. Baba Yaga just made me laugh because she talked crazy all the time but took the world by storm. Ekaterina, more than any other character, had the most individuality. I also liked the looney horse doctor because of his kindness and optimism.
Who is this book for?
This would be the perfect introduction to Russian Fairytales for kids. Its creative, has colorful writing, and interesting characters.
A Firebird flying across Russia in the strength of a noonday sun does indeed cast a shadow. Nothing that is spiritual can fail to shine. Of course we can’t see it directly, because the shadow it casts is just another kind of light. You have to look sideways to see it, but once you see it, you can never un-see it.
It is the light you see in the faces of children.
Something too few of us know while we are alive, he told her. We are all crowned with glory. Peasants no less than kings.
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