Thank you to the author for the chance to review this title!
I dove into this book knowing very little about the plot. I do my stuff when it comes to the folklore surrounding Baba Yaga, often described as an old woman who lives in a house with chicken legs so, I knew I was getting into something rich and unique. Folklore is so often touched upon but so rarely done right. The author takes Baba Yaga and turns her on her head, and what she came out with was a tale of love, loss, bravery, and friendship.
The story takes place in PA, sometime after the Great War. Her mother is doing her best to make ends meet, but their survival falls upon her mother marrying a rich man whom-at least to Vasilisa-resembles an ogre from one of the Russian tales she'd grown to believe. When her grandmother falls under a spell, she leaps into action, barreling headfirst into a world filled with witches and magic.
The story is well written and fast-paced. Vasilisa, as a protagonist is one to root for. She's formidable and brave, and when it comes to her family, she's fierce as a wildfire. I adored the world of Rus in all of its danger and splendor.
Final thoughts: I loved every second of this book. I'd compare it to The Girl who Drank the Moon in its world-building and writing style, with the deep magic of The Bear and the Nightingale with a touch of The Story That Cannot Be Told. All stellar books with stellar authors.
I will say that this book may not be for everyone. It is a different type of middle-grade book both with the writing style and the story. But this is a solid read with many beautiful messages, a Vasilisa tells that change is inevitable, and it teaches yourself that it's okay to question the world around you. It teaches young readers who stand up for what is right and shows that love comes in many forms.
Julie Mathison is one to watch. I'll be reading more from her in the future, I'm sure.
VASILISA releases February 23rd. Preorder it here