Oh my god this book slaughtered me.
This is a lyrical and tragically amazing take on the traditional Russian fairy tale of “The Death of Koschei the Deathless” (which is a pretty fucking awesome title by itself, go read it), setting it in the days of the terrible siege of Leningrad.
The fairy tale has a badass warrior Marya Morevna marrying a brave Ivan and making him promise to never go into the basement. Of course he breaks it and finds out that she’s got Koschei the Immortal chained up in there. He sets Koschei free, who promptly steals Marya away and so Ivan goes on a quest to rescue his wife.
But Deathless asks, why is the powerful Koschei chained down there in the first place? What if Koschei was the Tsar of Life and Marya the girl he stole away from Soviet Russia? What if the Tsar of Life was fighting an endless war against the Tsar of Death — and he was losing? What magic can survive in the dying city of Leningrad?
And so, Catherynne M. Valente’s breathtaking, heartbreaking Deathless.
Also starring Baba Yaga, who’s like this total bitch aunt.