Archive: Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen – Book Review

This review was originally uploaded over on on Sat, 25 Aug 2018.

I was offered an e-ARC of Finding Baba Yaga in return for an honest review and took it on a whim due to a life-long fascination with the old witch. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I have a great fondness for Slavic and Russian folklore, and when I heard about a reimagining of the Baba, I was all too happy to take a very close look. Novels written in verse are not my usual cup of tea, however — I’m much more comfortable with prose. That said, I’ve been hard at work to familiarise myself with poetry lately, and there’s no mistaking good verse when I read it.

Finding Baba Yaga is marketed as ‘A Short Novel in Verse,’ and it truly is short; it took me no more than an hour and a half to go through its nine chapters. Despite the short amount of time I spent with this novel, it will nevertheless remain with me for a long time to come, with its evocative and beautiful verses, its feisty girls and wicked witch.

What Jane Yolen has shown absolute mastery over is the ability to paint the personality of each character in Finding Baba Yaga with only a few powerful, concise lines. Our protagonist’s character traits we can readily extract from verses, which read as if they were extracted from this young woman’s mind. Natasha’s coming of age story was a joy to follow for this, and many other reasons besides. The themes this book explores are very much relevant to today, and many readers will connect with Natasha.        

Jane Yolen has managed a difficult task in staying true to the folklore image of Baba Yaga while grounding the story of this novel in 21st century America. The Baba is wise and funny, occasionally cruel and even terrifying, and she sees through the characters the book introduces us to with ease.

If you have an appreciation for fairy tales, for the character of Baba Yaga, or for beautiful and evocative verse, you should have a gander at this short novel. Now that Finding Baba Yaga has introduced me to Jane Yolen, I’m looking forward to exploring her works in the field of modern fairy tales and poetry further. Neil Gaiman said about her, “Jane Yolen is a phenomenon: a poet and a mythmaker, who understands how old stories can tell us new things. We are lucky to have her,” and I am beginning to understand why.  You will, too.

Finding Baba Yaga receives 5/5 stars on Goodreads and my hearty recommendation! This is a much shorter review than I usually write, but there’s not too much to say about the book before its release date. I would love to return to it after release, and share with you ladies and gentlemen some of my favourite quotes, analyse what the most powerful verses succeed in accomplishing. A more in-depth look is what this novel will greatly benefit from!

Aw, ain’t that review just the cutest? And short, too!

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