Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

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Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei's beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.


About Catherynne M. Valente

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Catherynne M. Valente is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, and is best-known for her urban speculative fiction, including Palimpsest (winner of the 2010 Lambda Award), and The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden. This, her first novel for young readers, was posted online in 2009 and won the Andre Norton Award-the first book to ever win before traditional publication. Cat Valente lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, and an enormous cat. Ana Juan is a world-renowned illustrator known in this country for her wonderful covers for the New Yorker magazine, as well as the children's books The Night Eater, and Frida, written by Jonah Winter. She lives in Spain.
Published March 29, 2011 by Tor Books. 353 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Deathless

Kirkus Reviews

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In turn Marya's other elder sisters accept bird-husbands also, but when it's Marya's turn she is not watching and does not see the bird become a man.

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Publishers Weekly

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Twentieth-century Russian history provides a background for Valente's lush reimagining of folkloric villain Koschei the Deathless and his dalliance with Marya Morevna, a clever but troubled young woman.

Feb 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

New York Journal of Books

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Valente, a modern retelling of the Slavic folktale, “Koschei the Deathless.” Bewitching and darkly sensuous, Deathless is a new breed of fairytale for the eclectic reader.The characters of Deathless are interesting creatures.

Mar 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

AV Club

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Valente writes in her new novel, Deathless, “with a lot of smaller stories in it, and motifs, and symbols, and sometimes things in the story really happened, and sometimes they didn’t.” Mercifully, that’s about as meta as Deathless gets.

Apr 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

We Love This Book

Marya Morevna wants to believe in magic, and one day through her window she spies a bird fall from its branches and jump up as a handsome man.

Nov 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Deathless

SF Signal

By the end of the story, the book simply wasn’t something that I was reading for entertainment, but was something that I found myself working to get through simply to finish the book, never a reaction that I want to have when I read something.

Jun 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

Portland Book Review

I bet you will find something that will interest you 5 stars for a cleverly devised mystery set in PDX a must read for the tween reader in your family Exciting, inventive, and thrilling are not words that would typically be associated ...

Oct 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless


Valente has taken a fairy tale and a body of characters — Koshei, Marya, Baba Yaga — and brought them vividly to life.

Apr 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

Strange Horizons

As Koschei's sister Baba Yaga says to Marya when revealing that Marya is the latest in a long line of Brides of Koschei, all with similar origin stories at their backs and similar fates before them, "That's how you get deathless, volchitsa.

Jul 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless


When I first heard about Deathless, I was very excited to read it, mainly because, while I enjoy reading and studying folklore and fairy tales on my own time, I am not very familiar with any of the stories from Russian or Slavic cultures.

May 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

Vivid Scribe

For readers interested in fantasy in general, Deathless is also an absolute must read, for in a genre so prone to the same old this and that, Valente has produced a remarkably unique and mesmerising novel.

Jun 15 2012 | Read Full Review of Deathless

Cabinet Des Fees

The trickiest part of all this is not the movement back and forth between fairy tale and history (though that is hard enough to pull off), but the movement between the large, collective history of Russia and the private, individual history of Marya Morevna’s marriage.

Sep 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Deathless

Caliber Magazine

However, by the time she is fifteen years of age, the Russian Revolution has already set in, converting Saint Petersburg into Petrograd, morphing her home into a communal residence of twelve families, slashing away traces of hopes for a fairy tale that Marya wishes to live.

Oct 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Deathless

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