The Witch and the Tsar

Books on Tape Sept. 2022. 13:57 hrs. ISBN 9780593626368. $95. FANTASY
Blending Russian folklore and history, Gilmore’s thrilling debut offers a new interpretation of the fabled witch Baba Yaga. Here, she is not the witch of legend, but rather a half-mortal, half-goddess who contentedly lives in her beloved chicken house with her wolf and bird companions. One day she is approached by the sweet Tsarina Anastasia, who seeks a cure for her mysterious illness. Yaga sees that the Tsarina has been poisoned, and she agrees to help. Her efforts are complicated when Tsar Ivan, soon to become Ivan the Terrible, comes under the influence of fearsome immortals, who put the future of Russia and its people in grave danger. Narrator Katia Kapustin’s briskly vigorous presentation conveys Baba Yaga’s power and authority. Her distinct characterizations ensure that listeners can easily distinguish between characters. She employs her wide vocal range to great effect, using a forceful, sharp tone when giving voice to men, then switching to a deliciously creepy voice to portray an evil elder goddess. Kapustin’s authentic pronunciation of Russian names adds to the overall experience of this Slavic tale.
VERDICT Kapustin’s deft narration combined with Gilmore’s intriguing rendition of the often maligned Baba Yaga makes for an enchanting listen.
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