Medieval Russia is a place where forest spirits still roam, water spirits lurk in rivers waiting for their next victims, and benevolent house spirits crouch in fireplaces. A girl named Vasilisa is born with the ability to see and speak to them, as her mother predicted before she was born. The premonition came at a terrible price; Marina dies in childbirth. Vasya grows up amongst her siblings listening to the stories of her nurse and making friends with the spirits in and around their country home. The spread of Christianity sends a priest named Konstantin from Moscow to their small village. His preachings fill the people with the fear of God, and they stop believing in the old spirits. With no one but Vasya to believe in them, they are dying, and she is doing all she can to keep them alive. The villagers call her a witch, but it may not be that far off from the truth… a man with cold, cold eyes has been watching Vasya her whole life, waiting for her power to surface before the coldest winter in living memory falls upon them all…
It reads like an old story: atmospheric and conversational, as if you were listening to it. And like an old tale, it’s got a strong setting, ghosts and other things that go bump in the night, and a great sense of love for family. Vasya is a canny heroine. She refuses to conform to the expectations set upon her by her village, yet will do just about anything for those she loves, even if they have scorned her. Each character is well-drawn, especially Konstantin and Vasya’s father, Pyotr. Overall a beautiful debut by a new author. I for one absolutely cannot wait for the next book!
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