Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review:: Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente

Title: Deathless
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Series: Deathless, #1
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★☆

I really do love fairy tale books, but only if they're well done. The modern adaptation needs to add to the story, while still holding onto what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. Catherynne M. Valente managed to do that and more, creating a rich and complex book that stayed true to its roots.

When I say this book was gorgeous, I mean it. The prose is simply entrancing, but without taking away from the fairy tale appeal. Specifically the prose. There are a lot of literary techniques fairy tales use, such as repetition, that are kept here in a way that adds to the beauty of the writing, rather than making it simplistic. While a lantern is hung on the fact that the fantastic elements are taken for granted, I personally didn't find it necessary. Still, it wasn't forced, nor was it a major element.

As I read this, I wondered if it would have been five stars if my knowledge of Russian folklore was better. I definitely did appreciate what I knew (and what I was able to google), but it was tough in parts because a lot of romanized Russian words are rather difficult to search for.

But what was perhaps most phenomenal was the adaptation of the folklore not to an entirely modern era, but specifically to Soviet Russia. Often, when I see modern adaptations of fairy tales, it's more to do with the upgrade in technology, but in this case, it's often an upgrade of culture itself. We find that the domoviye have changed... because the house is now communal, as it's owned by everyone, so are the domoviye, meeting in committees and taking out their anger via filing claims, rather than traditional mischief.

On top of a fairy tale story, this is also just a bleak portrayal of the realities of Soviet Russian life for so many. There's a point where after she's been saved by her Ivan, they are wasting away to the point that they are eating paint chips. Being brought back to reality is just as dangerous as living in a fairy tale.

The book itself is so complex that it's difficult to write a concise review about it, and I feel at this point I'm rambling. So here's what I'm trying to say: you should read this book. It is good, and you will enjoy it.


  1. Valente's prose really is beautiful. Deathless has some amaaazing lines.

    1. I'm planning a re-read when I'm not sick. Pretty sure it'll make it even better.