The Witch and the Tsar

Ace: Berkley. Sept. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9780593546970. $27. FANTASY
DEBUT Gilmore impresses with this feminist retelling of the Baba Yaga folktale set in 16th-century Russia. In Gilmore’s hands, Baba Yaga is not the evil, old witch of myth, a rumor invented to reduce unmarried, reclusive women to monsters. This Yaga has a mortal father and immortal mother and has not aged past her thirties, even after centuries on Earth. She spends her time healing mortals and lives in a hut that has chicken legs and can understand her. When Anastasia, wife of the man who would become known as Ivan the Terrible, falls ill, Yaga realizes that someone is poisoning her and threatening the future of Russia. She also soon finds that immortals are meddling in the affairs of humans, which launches her on a years-long quest to both fight and find allies among the gods, as the fate of Russia hangs in the balance. Along the way, Yaga will experience heartbreak and love as she creates a found family and learns the shocking truth of who is pulling the Tsar’s strings.
VERDICT  Gilmore’s immersive prose steeps readers in this wonderfully epic folktale fantasy full of magic and myth.
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