I first read this one, by Orson Scott Card, back in 1999, soon after it came out. I was leaving my job to spend some time in Germany so Hubby could do dissertation research, and my co-workers gave me a $100 gift card to Borders (they knew me so well!). This was one of the books I bought, and I was eagerly looking forward to reading it, being somewhat of a Card fan. This book was a big disappointment, though. I remember laying on the bed in our room in Germany, yelling at the book to stop moralizing and get BACK TO THE STORY. I sold the book as soon as we got back to the states.
And I have had no desire to read it since.
Until, now. And I did only because my on-line book group out-voted me (I voted for Ender’s Shadow, which I’ve also already read, but liked better…) and chose it to read for this month’s discussion. So, I checked it out from the library, tried to push away my pre-conceived notions of the book, and read it.
It’s not a bad story; in fact, it could have been a brilliant book. Put Sleeping Beauty in Russia, use Baba Yaga as the witch, and work magic into today’s world as well as that of long ago. Add some relationship complexity between the hero, Ivan, and the heroine, Katerina. He kisses her, but it’s not exactly love-that-works-at-first sight. They have to work to get their marriage to work, they have to learn to work together to save Taina from the clutches of Baba Yaga.
But, Card gets in the way of his own story. Or, at least, I got impatient with Card’s storytelling. I knew already that the book was full of tangents (though they weren’t as bad as I remember!), and yes, they still annoyed me. I decided, early on, to put a book dart whenever I got annoyed. There were at least a dozen. Now, in a nearly-400 page book, that’s not that many. Still, the story could have been tighter. If he had laid off the pages of descriptions (and barbs) of music, philosophy, religion, feminism, politics, culture, men-women relationships, and just plain musings, he could have had a tight, fun, interesting 250-page story.
And that book, I’d happily recommend to everyone. This one, not so much.