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Archive for the ‘Orson Scott Card’ Category

…he didn’t like the rules.  He didn’t like the idea of marrying someone who thought he was a deformed cross-dressing peon, and even less did he like the idea of getting caught up in some kind of struggle with a mythical witch from the nightmares of fifty generations of Russian children.  He’d done his part.  He woke her up and set her free.  The prince didn’t have to stay.  Especially when he wasn’t a prince. (p. 70)

 I have no idea how to classify Enchantment by Orson Scott Card.  What do you call a novel that revolves around fairy tales, throwing in gods and time travel for good measure?  Compelling, for starters.

As a young boy, Ivan glimpses a princess asleep in the woods.  As an adult coming back to the Ukraine to study after years in America, he returns to those woods and wakes the princess with a kiss.  However, nothing is as simple as Disney had made it seem, and Ivan finds himself engaged to Princess Katerina and follows her back to the late 9th Century where the witch Baba Yaga terrorizes all in an attempt to seize the king’s lands.  Ivan, a Twentieth Century academic, is unable to even handle a sword – certainly not the hero all had hoped for and relied upon to protect the kingdom.  Katerina and Ivan must work together to out run and out wit the deadly Baba Yaga and to plot her defeat.

I loved this book.  I thought it had fascinating, complex characters, a rich, detailed narrative and a wonderfully irreverent sense of humour.  Fantasy books can take themselves, and their heroes and heroines, too seriously but that’s certainly not the case here.  Ivan and Katerina are extraordinary people but both are still sympathetic and believable, with more than enough faults.  Katerina has an innate nobility about her, the confidence of someone born to rule and more than capable of doing so.  Ivan falls short of her rather lofty expectations but, though somewhat insecure in his new setting and role, he remains strong.  The evolution of their relationship is believable, as are the prejudices and misunderstandings that at times keep them apart.

I loved the interweaving of folk tales, myths, and time travel.  Combining fairy tales to have Baba Yaga as the witch who put the princess to sleep was fantastic.  Nothing is sacred here: time travel clichés (such as don’t introduce advanced technology) are considered and then discarded, with delightful results (Molotov cocktails and hand gliders in the 9th Century, anyone?).  Also, with many time travel novels it’s only one character that jumps from his or her normal time.  Here, both Ivan and Katerina are able to travel, allowing them to appreciate the other in his or her own setting, where they each appear to best advantage.  Baba Yaga also does some time travelling of her own, as do the passengers of a 747 she highjacks.  Surreal, but magnificent. 

Baba Yaga might be my favourite character.  It’s not uncommon that the villain (or villainess) outshines the hero and heroine of a novel.  The balance here is quite even, but Baba Yaga has some of the best lines and suffers from none of the self doubt and insecurity that plague the more virtuous characters.  She is evil and it’s fantastic.  Her conversations with her husband Bear, a god she has enslaved in order to use his power, are hilarious, as is Bear’s occasional use of ‘whatever’ in a very 20th Century, Valley-girl way.

There was literally nothing about this book that I didn’t enjoy.  Every time I put it down, I was counting the minutes until I could pick it back up.  It’s been a long time since I read something that entertained me this much.  Generally, I’m a little scared of the fantasy genre but experiences like this give me the courage to consider expanding my reading further.

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