In this reimagining of Russian tales of Baba Yaga, Yagas act as benevolent Guardians of The Gate between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Orphan Marinka descends on both sides from the first Yaga, whose house plied the Russian steppes. Her grandmother Baba, who is also a Yaga, is training her to take over this important job when the time comes. But the 12-year-old doesn’t want to be a Yaga. A Yaga’s life is secret and lonely; her (or his) only friends are the dead who stop in nightly for a celebration of their lives before the Yaga guides them back to the stars from whence they came. Then two life-changing events happen in succession: Marinka learns a devastating truth about her life and Baba disappears. Marinka has to find a way to get Baba back, but her plan may change everything forever. Anderson has fully and lovingly developed her Yaga mythology. Although the Yaga story originates in Eastern Europe, these Yagas travel all over the world to guide the dead. Marinka’s story takes her to England’s Lake District, an unidentified desert, a marketplace in North Africa, and to the Russian steppes. Yagas are kind, and their chicken-legged houses aren’t merely a means to get from place to place. They are sentient creatures, expressing emotion and magically meeting their inhabitants’ needs. Some diversity is implied based on location, and Marinka’s Russian descent likewise implies that she is white.
Heartbreaking, uplifting, and absolutely beautiful. (Fantasy. 8-13)