Vasilisa (Old Rus #1)
Starr Creek Press
Published February 23, 2021
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Three witches, two children, one ogre — and nowhere to run.
It’s 1919, but in Edenfall, Pennsylvania, the Great War is not over — not for Vasilisa, at least. Papa is presumed dead on the fields of Flanders, Mama is being courted by an absolute ogre, and now Babka, her beloved grandma, has had a bad spell. Or has she fallen under one? Only the Old Tales, the Russian fables Vasilisa was raised on, offer any comfort or counsel.
But what if they are more than child’s tales?
Enter Ivan, who jumps a train for Edenfall at midnight and finds Vasilisa in a real fix. Old Rus is calling from across time and both worlds, and if they heed the call, they might both get what they want. It won’t be easy. Three witches, two children, one ogre – they’re outnumbered and outclassed. Baba Yaga and Old Koschei are after the same thing — and each other — and the children are caught in the crosshairs.
Vasilisa has a secret weapon, in the humblest of guises, but will the meek truly inherit the earth? Or will the mighty prevail? One thing is certain: it’s a fairy tale of their own making, a tale whose happy ending is ever in doubt.
This is such a different story than BELIEVE, Mathison’s debut, which I loved that I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get into this one. However– I had zero trouble. Right from the first pages, Vasilisa and her grandmother had my heart, and I was desperate to follow their story to the very end.
So many of the relationships in the story were really believable and complex. I especially loved the friendship between Vasilisa and Evelyn and Vasilisa’s relationship with Meredith, the local herbalist.
One of the things I liked also about VASILISA is that it makes a really nice bridge between middle grade and young adult books. Vasilisa turns fourteen in the story, and she has a love interest, but it’s not at all the focus of the book. The family relationships and adventure make it a great fit for upper middle grade readers (5th and 6th graders), and the more mature elements, like the romance, open the door for lower young adult readers (7th and 8th graders). It’s often difficult to find books that hit that age group, so I love that this one does.
I think readers who enjoyed tales about Russian folklore, like NEVERTELL by Katharine Orton and THE DOOR IN THE STAIRCASE by Katherine Marsh will love the folklore and adventure of VASILISA.
Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.
Vasilisa is a Russian American, the daughter of Russian immigrants.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Vasilisa’s neighbor has proposed to her mother. Brief kissing between boy and girl.
Several characters have some special abilities. One uses herbs for healing and believes every plant has a spirit. Another creates crude dolls used to harm others.
Old Rus is populated with mythical creatures, like Baba Yaga, many intending harm toward visitors.
Brief references to the Russian Orthodox church and a local priest.
Some references to murders that happened in the past– one character killed another’s parents. Baba Yaga hopes to eat some of the children she meets. One character plans to murder his father’s killer.
Herbs are used medicinally.
Note: I received a free copy of VASILISA in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.