I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
Published by HarperCollins UK on December 8, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, General, Medieval, World Literature, Russia
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Publisher, NetGalley
Buy on Amazon
‘A delicate weaving of myth and history, The Witch and the Tsar breathes new life into stories you think you know’ Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf
Yaga lives deep in the Russian forest, tending to any that call upon her for her healing potions and vast wisdom.
She has been alone for centuries, with only her beloved animals for company. But, when Tsaritsa Anastasia, wife of Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich, shows up at Yaga’s cottage on the brink of death, Yaga is compelled to travel with her to Moscow to keep her safe.
However, the Russia Yaga sees as she makes her journey to the heart of the country is one 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.
Set in sixteenth-century Russia, The Witch and the Tsar upends the stories we know of Baba Yaga as the bony-legged witch of Slavic fairy tales and the stuff of nightmares. For beyond the rumours of her iron nose, fangs for teeth, and house on chicken legs, is the story of a woman so wise and strong that she has to be cloaked in lies to hide her true power.
The Witch and the Tsar is a story magnificently told. The frozen landscape of Russia is home to treachery, romance, and strength. My imagination was on fire so much I think I combusted a little!
It is books like The Witch and the Tsar reminds me why I enjoy reading literature from other cultures. The imagery in this story was stunning, the frozen landscape, the chill emanating into your bones from thousands of miles away, it is told so succinctly that if you look up you can almost feel the delicate snowflakes land on your skin. It is a book that makes you forget your sense of place, time, and everything in between. The Witch and the Tsar will stay with me for a long time to come.
It is really difficult to find the words to do this story justice – it’s fantastical and taut with glorious imagery and characters that breathe life into the mythology of the Baba Yaga – a firm favourite of mine. The author transports you with ease and it never really felt like reading a book, it was an experience.
The immortal witch, known as Baba Yaga (from the well-known Slavic folklore) she has always been known for evil deeds, residing deep in the forest in a home that sits on chicken legs. This story has forged a different path, one where Baba Yaga is humanised, she has emotion and an affinity towards animals. A visit from her long-time friend, Anastacia, the wife of the Tsar changes the course of her life. Anastacia implores her old friend to help her for she is being poisoned. She knows that the fate of her beloved mother Russia lies in the hands of Anastacia’s survival so she must step out of the shadows of her woods and travel to Moscow to ensure her friend’s safety.
I took an instant liking to Yaga. She’s spunky, resourceful, and doesn’t hesitate to put those whom she loves first, even if that means something catastrophic happens to her. She’s the strength of Russia, the scaffolding, the moral compass, and yet she is still left to deal with egotistical men that seek nothing but status and power. She is bold and powerful, but she has never had to harness the full extreme of her powers, never had to consider it until now when it appears The Lord of Winter is back long before his time – summer should still be in full swing. Where has the imbalance materialised from?
Set in 16th-century Russia, Anastacia is the wife of the future Ivan the Terrible. I really enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of the story; it gave a sense of knowing and I had to do some further reading on the terrible Tsar’s actions upon finishing this amazing tale. Isn’t it wonderful when you read something that makes you want to read more on the subject?
Every character in The Witch and the Tsar made me feel a part of their group, very quickly you get involved, you start caring about their outcome and pain and it becomes impossible to tear yourself away! The author has created a beautiful picture of Russia and its surroundings. I welcomed the path she took me down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the US, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English / political science, and from Northwestern University School of Law with a JD. She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.