A fantasy set in Tsarist Russia.
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.
The last Maguire book I read was the ending of the Wicked series, and I'll admit, I was a little disappointed. The vulgarity that seemed to continue cropping up didn't match the Maguire I've come to know and love. Egg and Spoon completely redeemed him.
Though considered a children's book, this is not your average flimsy picture book with sparse words. This is a 475 page book. Though most children with an imagination and love for reading will enjoy this,it's definitely just as much of an adult book.
Though Maguire is known best for his Wicked series, I truly think this is his best work yet. He has mastered the belief that when writing fantasy,there are no limits. If you can imagine it, you can write it. No rules and no boundaries. This is the Maguire that I've come to love and respect. His imagination builds a world similar to ours, but it's a world where magic and myth exist. You'll meet famous characters and see childhood stories from a different perspective.
The characters are built with love and care and each one truly has a life of their own. I was so immersed in this book that it was a one-sitting read. There's just a hint of romance, but most of the book is a cruel misadventure. Two girls have switched places and find themselves lost in their new worlds and not sure how to cope. In a world where anyone would be lost and confused, these girls find themselves in an even more peculiar situation. The worlds surrounding each character are vibrant and messy.
This is a great fantasy adventure that you can either sit back and enjoy at face value, or expend a little thought into. There are some valuable life lessons and morals contained inside, as well as a lot of fun.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn