Leningrad Diptych #1

Catherynne M. Valente

fiction fantasy historical
adventurous emotional mysterious slow-paced

352 pages | first published 2011

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.

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dark 90%
mysterious 56%
adventurous 50%
emotional 48%
sad 37%
challenging 35%
reflective 20%
tense 20%
inspiring 7%
funny 4%
informative 4%
hopeful 3%
lighthearted 1%
relaxing 1%


slow 53%
medium 43%
fast 3%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 78% | A mix: 14% | Plot: 7%

Strong character development?

Yes: 61% | It's complicated: 27% | No: 11%

Loveable characters?

It's complicated: 50% | Yes: 28% | No: 20%

Diverse cast of characters?

No: 52% | It's complicated: 25% | Yes: 16% | N/A: 5%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 89% | It's complicated: 10%

Average rating