Tag: Naomi novik

5 Books That Resonate With Slavic Mythos and Folklore

With the Netflix adaptation of The Witcher mere weeks away from dropping, an article about books inspired by Slavic myth and folklore seems more than appropriate. Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series borrows heavily from this lore, and there does appear to be a recent spike in fantasy literature that follows in suit. Granted, the spike itself is not likely because of Sapkowski’s work, there might still be readers of his series who might be interested in reading other work that pulls from the same mythos.

With that in mind, here are five books that resonate with Slavic mythology and folklore.

 

 

1. Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles

 

image via amazon

 

Written by Taisia KitaiskaiaAsk Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles is a compiled book of advice columns written by Baba Yaga, a witch from Slavic folklore who is known for being maternal and helpful to some, but also ruthless to others. She lives in a house that walks on chicken legs, and she has teeth made of iron. She flies around in a gigantic mortar and uses the pestle to steer herself through the sky.

Kitaiskaia, going off of the fact that Baba Yaga is an ancient figure who has seen much and lived much, writes in the style of Baba Yaga extolling advice to folk who mail her life questions. Her words can be cryptic at times, which forces readers to really sit and think on what she is saying. Often times, her advice might come in the form of an allegory, and her wording also demands that readers absorb what she says and sometimes reread that advice column in question. Alternating between stern words for those who might need a wake-up call, to maternal words to strengthen those who are struggling, Baba Yaga provides advice that isn’t just applicable to the people who asked the questions, much of what is said here can be relevant to others as well.

 

 

2. Uprooted

 

image via amazon

 

Written by Naomi NovikUprooted is one part a loose retelling of Rapunzel, one part a dive into Slavic mythos and magical lore, and wholly birthed from the vivid imagination of the writer. Uprooted follows the main character Agnieszka, a girl who hales from a valley that is on the border of a dangerous magical forest that corrupts both people and animal, turning them into proxies that this evil magic can enact violence through. Every ten years, the local sorcerer, the Dragon, will visit the valley to choose a girl to stay with him in his tower, where he has her clean and cook for him in that time. The actual reason behind him doing so is revealed later on in the novel. While living with the Dragon, Agnieszka learns that she, too, is able to wield magic, and she is one of the few who can actually interpret and cast the spells from a book written by Baba Jaga, a spell caster who fell out of time.

Whilst trying to learn how to use her magic in a way that is entirely her own, Agnieszka is also called upon to figure out a way to stop the forest from corrupting and harming more people and, ultimately, swallowing up the entire kingdom.

 

 

3. The bear and the nightingale

 

Image via amazon

 

Written by Katherine ArdenThe Bear and The Nightingale is the first book in a trilogy, and it weaves Slavic and Russian folklore together to create this narrative. This book follows Vasilisa, a girl whose name comes straight out of the fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful.” Arden’s protagonist is confronted with several life-changing obstacles after her father brings home Vasilisa’s stepmother–a woman who wishes to either marry Vasilisa off, or to send her to a convent. While dealing with her stepmother’s cruelty, Vasilisa must also learn to control her magical powers.

This story invokes creatures from Slavic myth like the Rusalka, a water spirit who was once a human, and the Domovoy, who is a household god. There are many other beings who appear in this book and are inspired by Russian and Slavic tales.

 

 

 

4. Wicked Saints

 

image via amazon

 

Wicked Saints, by Emily Duncan, is the first book in a trilogy that deals with vampires inspired by Polish legends and a pantheon of deities that can be traced back to a distinctly Slavic source. This story follows three protagonists: Serefin, a blood mage; Nadya, who can hear the gods; and Malachiasz. The world that they inhabit has been ripped apart by war, and naturally, these three main characters will have a role in defining its future.

As can be assumed from a world that is war-torn, there is a great deal of violence in this narrative. This is not mentioned here to dissuade potential readers, but it is meant to be a word of caution before you start reading. The characters have constantly been referred to as “morally grey” by both critics and Goodreads reviewers, so if you enjoy fantasy stories that do not fall strictly within the good-evil binary (I know I most certainly do), then this might be the story for you.

 

 

5. Finding Baba Yaga: a short novel in verse

 

image via amazon

 

Finding Baba Yaga: A Short Novel in Verse, is the second book on this list that Baba Yaga plays a key role in. Written by Jane Yolen, this novel is completely composed of free-verse poems that details how the protagonist, Natasha, leaves her family and eventually finds her ways to the witch’s house. Entirely told from Natasha’s point of view, this story primarily centers on how she gains her voice and a presence in her own personal narrative.

This is an extremely short read, and it can easily be completed in one sitting. Yolen’s portrayal of Baba Yaga, reveals her to be a distant magical being who, simultaneously, acts as a motherly figure who encourages the girls who come to live with her to grow into strong, autonomous individuals.

 

 

Featured Image Via shri-boomer

 


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Two Hugo Finalists Trying to Turn Silver to Gold

The Hugo Awards, the annual award for science fiction, will announce their winner later in the week, but for now, there are two finalists which are the first in their series—so you can start reading right now, and be ready for the winner this weekend.

 

Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning

Image Via Amazon

 

Maggie is a post-apocalyptic Navajo monster hunter, and that’s just the beginning. When a girl goes missing in a small town, she’s forced to team up with a medicine man to travel the reservation, uncovering secrets and coming closer and closer to a monster more terrible than either can imagine. An immersive flooded world, filled with gods and monsters, and characters with enough sarcasm and attitude to bear the weight of a dark plot and devastated world.

This has already swept a few awards, and is sure to be a good pick for anyone who likes any supernatural or speculative genres.

 

 

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

Image Via Amazon

 

You may have noticed by now I’m A LITTLE OBSESSED with Naomi Novik, but hey, the experts back me up. This is sort of a fairy tale, related to Rumpelstiltskin, but you always get much more than you can possibly foresee with Novik.

Since her father is running the family business into the ground, Miryim takes matters into her own hands. For better or worse, she’s very good at debt collecting, and ends up catching the attention of the supernatural—the icy Staryk—and it only gets more dire from there. You can expect gloriously lush world building and characters who feel like real people.

 

 

 

Featured image Via Pixels

Summer Flings – 5 Fantasy Standalones

As the summer draws to a close, here’s a list of the five best fantasy books you just have to read before autumn arrives! All these books aren’t set in the summer, but they’re still the perfect thing to pick up, no strings attached! Whether you like paranormal, high fantasy, or light horror, you’ll find the perfect book to read in the sun (without falling asleep).

 

 

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

 

Uprooted
Image via Amazon

 

If you’re not reading Novik yet, then you’re missing out! This is the perfect standalone to get you started. Set on the outskirts of a terrifyingly magical forest, this book has a dragon (arguably), an unexpected heroine, plenty of violence, and even more magic. If you want a glorious modern story with the feel of a classic fantasy, you’re going to love this book. It’s also got sense, heart, and writing that’ll make you wonder why anyone else even tries.

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Image via Amazon

 

Black writes a lot of different moods, so if you read fantasy you’ve probably encountered her. The Coldest Girl is and isn’t like anything else. Whether you’re over vampires or completely obsessed, give this book a try. A strong, sensible heroine who never the less gets drawn into danger and horror she thought she’d escaped, this book has both the elegance and horror of the genre, the obsession and the disinterest, as well as characters who step off the page.

 

Deep Secret – Danna Wynne Jones

 

Deep Secret
Image via Amazon

 

Jones is also outrageously prolific. Even if you haven’t read any of her work, you’ve probably seen the Miyazaki adaptation of one of her novels, Howl’s Moving Castle. This is something slightly different, but with Jones’ dry humor, sense of tangible magic, and deeply flawed characters you’ll still absolutely love. Royal succession, a secret magical society, and a digital curse make this book a classic, even if you may not know all the retro computer terms.

 

 

The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff

 

The Replacement
Image via Amazon

 

You probably don’t know Yovanoff, but you might want to. This book is a little gruesome, but only in the way some old fairy tales are. Sometimes children in Gentry are taken, and Mackie Doyle is what was left. Exploring sacrifice, familial love, and what it means to be different, this is an unusual book that’s worth your consideration. The protagonist is complex, and teeters between selfishness and alarming selflessness. My advice? Read it with the lights on.

 

 

The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

 

The Hobbit
Image via Amazon

 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or haven’t even seen any of the movies, The Hobbit is self-contained novel that stands on its own. This book is sweet, engaging, frighting, and funny. If you like modern fantasy, here’s it’s start. If you love Tolkien, you know this is a great read and reread,  and if you never got into Tolkien and were too afraid to ask, this is a great place to start. Plus, they put the most gorgeous covers on this book now.

 

 

Featured image via inc.com