Release Date: December 8th 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars
In this stunning debut novel, the maligned and immortal witch of legend known as Baba Yaga will risk all to save her country and her people from Tsar Ivan the Terrible—and the dangerous gods who seek to drive the twisted hearts of men.
As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar, and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.
As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore weaves a rich tapestry of mythology and Russian history, reclaiming and reinventing the infamous Baba Yaga, and bringing to life a vibrant and tumultuous Russia, where old gods and new tyrants vie for power. This fierce and compelling novel draws from the timeless lore to create a heroine for the modern day, fighting to save her country and those she loves from oppression while also finding her true purpose as a goddess, a witch, and a woman.
This absolutely stunning book captured my attention right from the very beginning. I was completely hooked and did not want to put it down. The story follows half-goddess Baba Yaga, who mostly keeps to herself in the woods, helping those who seek her out. When her old friend Anastasia comes seeking her desperate for help, she knows she cannot hide in the shadows anymore but must embark on an epic adventure to protect Russia from Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
The Witch and the Tsar is the perfect read for a dark winter night. Full of gorgeous writing, this is the kind of book that when you put it down you are just itching to pick it back up again. Full of folklore and magic, The Witch and the Tsar is a very impressive debut novel. The story is well paced and the vivid descriptions of the wintry landscape really came to life in Gilmore’s writing. The story is full of political intrigue as Russia is on the brink of chaos. I loved the way the author mixed folklore and Russian history to create such a rich story. The story felt incredibly detailed and well researched and fans of Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy are sure to fall in love with this one.
The characters in the story are well crafted, and Yaga makes for a fascinating protagonist. Having lived a long time she has seen and learned much and she was such an interesting character to read about. I loved the relationship she had with her three companions and I was absolutely rooting for her right till the end. The Witch and the Tsar is a beautiful, well plotted historical fantasy retelling that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. If you’re looking for something that will keep you reading long into the night, this one should definitely be on your wishlist.