Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

January 26, 2018

Life is like that.

We're told history is doomed to repeat itself, but what we don't realize is, LIFE is a constant circle.

Deathless is a real, honest to goodness, sweep you off your feet faerie tale. This isn't Disney where the world uprights itself at the end. This is a cold and never-ending story full of Russian lore. One that will never die, doomed to repeat for all eternity.

Let me swoon for a moment...

Valente's writing is pure honey, thick with transportive prose and engrossing descriptions of a world both beautiful and cruel. One of lore and terrible war. The moment I finished the first paragraph I was truly besotted. The writing is so beautiful and haunting that I devoured it in 24 hours.

I went into this novel blind, as I usually do and it completely knocked the wind out of me. (I never read the synopsis. I read a few paragraphs at the beginning of a book to see if I'll like it.) I was expecting historical fiction but instead I found myself entangled in cruel Russian history told through a bewitching faerie tale. 

Now, let's get a few things out of the way:

It was easy to ignore or even be completely unaware you were reading about some unsavory sexual events because of how Valente writes. There are what some would call abusive and/or unconventional relations that Valente expertly masked with flowery words, but I do, as per usual, wish they were omitted completely. 

I also understand tales as cruel and fiendish as this one usually equals harsh language in this day and age, but I still stand by my idea that curse words are jarring and out of place and seem especially unsuitable in faerie tales.

I find faerie tales to be in a league of their own and I don't use the same formula when I read/review them.  I'm not so worried about strict plot lines, tired tropes, or if things are 'realistic'. I don't try to figure out the ending, but rather sink and immerse myself in the magic. And Deathless is magic with characters that are terrible and thorny, without a moral compass. You're not supposed to love and cherish these beings which honestly, makes me like them a little more. (I have a thing for harsh and self-serving characters.) Valente skillfully weaves history and fantasy to create a truly strange, magical, dark, and wholly beautiful tale.

If you love Guillermo Del Toro, Grimm's Faerie Tales, and Russian folklore/myth you will love Deathless.

my rating: 4/5

(If the cursing and strange sexual passages were omitted this would be an instant 5/5!)

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