ENCHANTMENT by Orson Scott Card


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Card’s new fantasy (Heartfire, 1998, etc.) reworks an Old Russian variant of the Sleeping Beauty tale. In the Carpathian forest, the boy Ivan Smetski stumbled upon a leaf-filled pit where an eerie malevolent presence deterred him from reaching a pedestal upon which lay a beautiful sleeping girl. Years later, Ivan, now an upstate New York scholar of Slavic languages and folklore, returns to Russia to research ancient manuscripts. Inevitably, he returns to the pit . . . to find a huge, slavering bear guarding the sleeper. This time, he puts out the bear’s eye with a rock, leaps to the pedestal, and wakens the girl with a kiss. Princess Katerina conducts him across an invisible bridge, where, astonishingly, it’s 890 a.d., and the horrid megalomaniac witch Baba Yaga threatens Katerina’s homeland. Ivan struggles to adjust: not only does Katerina despise him because he lacks the muscles necessary for plowing or battle, but because he’s Jewish and has to convert to Christianity before they can marry (which they must do to avert Baba Yaga’s curse). Worse, the evil witch goads Katerina’s folk into plotting and treachery, so the couple—their marriage solemnized but unconsummated—flee back to 1992, a world as bewildering to Katerina as is hers to Ivan. But Baba Yaga soon follows, so Ivan’s good-witch mother Esther helps Katerina fend off the witch’s magical sorties, while Ivan learns how to make gunpowder, a secret he can carry back with him to 890. Finally, the pair realize they love each other, consummate the marriage, and return across the bridge. Baba Yaga also returns (she hijacks a 747), and the stage is set for a desperate showdown involving contending armies, loyalties, magic, and wits. Richly detailed and engagingly peopled: a fascinating remake, if sometimes dreadfully long-winded.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-345-41687-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999


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