Friday, June 20, 2008

My Last Book for the Once Upon a Time Challenge II

Whew. I was able to squeeze in ONE more book for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. After the big disappointment of Tanith Lee's White as Snow, the question is: Can Orson Scott Card do better in the "retelling of a fairy tale" department? Couldn't do worse, right? Of course, all you Card fans out there (and you KNOW who you are), already have the answer to that question! Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (400 pgs, Del Ray) is a modern day Sleeping Beauty (sort of....I'll get to that!)

"I'm ten years old, my whole life you've called me Vanya. My name is on the school records, on government papers as Ivan Petrovich Smetski. Now you tell me I'm really Itzak Shlomo. What am I, a Jewish secret agent?"

Growing up in Russia isn't easy if you were Jewish. Ivan's parents wanted to get him to America, so he could grow up in a land of freedom. And the way they were going to do it was by declaring themselves Jewish, and applying for a Visa to Israel. From there, they were going to go to America. Ivan could grow up free, and Piotr Smetski could teach at a University. But declaring yourself Jewish in 1975 had it's drawbacks in Russia. After Professor Smetski lost his job, the family lost their apartment, and still no Visa was to be had. So the Smetski's moved to the country near Kiev to live with Cousin Marek and his wife.

One day when Ivan was out running, he came across a clearing in the woods. The canopy of leaves overhead was "so dense that it was perpetually dusk at ground level". The ground was covered with leaves. When a slight breeze stirred the leaves, young Ivan could see something at the center. It was a woman: a beautiful, sleeping woman on a pedestal. And when the leaves moved, it wasn't just ground that it covered, but a wide chasm. Then something moved, and Ivan realized that he wasn't alone with the sleeping woman. There was some sort of creature hidden in the leaves. For a ten-year-old boy, this was too much. He ran off as fast as he could. But he never got a chance to tell anyone about what he saw (if he REALLY saw anything at all). Because when he returned to the country house, the family's Visa had come through and everyone was hurrying to get ready.

The plan worked, and the Smetski's immigrated to New York, to a small town close to Syracuse. And this is where Ivan grew into a man. He became a track star and a scholar. Fourteen years later, Ivan was working on his dissertation for his graduate degree. He was studying Russian Folklore and Ancient Languages, and figured the best way to finish his work would be to go back to Russia. At least that's what he told himself. Because in the back of his mind, he knew that he wanted to see if the woman, the clearing and the beast under the leaves was real.

The story of the Sleeping Beauty in most fairy tales ends once the Prince or Knight awakens the Princess and they live "Happily Ever After". But our story is only beginning. The best part of this tale is what happens after the beauty is awakened. Katerina is a 9th Century Princess who was hidden in time by the evil witch Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga's powers were so great because she had bound the Russian God, the Great Bear to her and was feeding off his power. What did she want? She wanted to rule to land of Tania, Katerina's land. So she hid Katerina away.....not knowing that Ivan would find her and lead her back to the 9th Century.

I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled with Katerina for a very long time in this book. She was so headstrong (which I usually like in a female character) that she wouldn't listen to reason. She had no sympathy for Ivan coming to a new place and time....and having no idea what the customs were or how he was supposed to act. But when fate sends the couple back to the modern time, she realized just how hard life was for someone who didn't have a clue.

Ivan, however, was a pure soul and I just fell in love with him right from the start. Far sooner than Katerina, that's for sure. Card did an incredible job of intertwining the lives of 2 people from different eras and making a fairy tale come to life. He truly is the gifted writer that so many of you keep trying to tell me!! On top of the fairy tale, he mixes in Russian folklore and creates a cast of characters that will stay with me for a long time. This was really a remarkable book, and one that far surpassed the Tanith Lee story of Snow White. I just wish I had read this one first. If you are a fan of Card, or just a fan of fairy tales, this is one book that you must be sure to read!! 4.5/5


Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

After reading Ender's Game to hubby the past couple of weeks we've been searching endlessly for the sequels. Through our search I've realized how many books he's written, and I've seen this one and wondered about it. I'm not a huge sci-fi gal, but I really enjoyed his writing--maybe his fantasy stuff is the way to go!

Great review and congrats on finishing the challenge!

Carrie said...

I read this book last year and LOVED it! Your review brought back some really great memories. =) Fantastic book and worth the time.

Thanks for posting your review of it!

Ana S. said...

"Card did an incredible job of intertwining the lives of 2 people from different eras and making a fairy tale come to life."

I completely agree. I'm glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did :)

Debi said...

Wow, Stephanie...though I loved Card's writing with Ender's Game, and I've picked up a couple other of his that sounded really good to me, I just didn't think I would enjoy this one. But you just convinced me I might have been wrong about that!

Teddy Rose said...

Congrats on finishing the challenge!

The Bookworm said...

this is on my TBR list, wonderful review!

Stephanie said...

Trish - See...I haven't read the Sci-Fi Stuff yet. Just this one, and it was really good. Then again, I'm a fantasy person anyway.

Carrie - I'm glad you liked it too! It really was a great book. Took me a bit to get into it, but when I did...I couldn't put it down.

Nymeth - Yes, I did enjoy it alot. The Once Upon a Time challenge was a perfec time to read it! I just wish I read it in time for your Book Carnival!! Cause the one I was going to submit wasn't very good.

Debi - If you like fairy tales, I think you would like this one! I still need to read Ender's Game though.

Teddy - Thanks!!

Naida- Thanks! I hope you read it and enjoy it as well. Looking forward to your review!

Framed said...

Years ago, I read a Card book that I didn't like and never wanted to read his books again. Somehow I tried "Enchantment" and completely changed my opinion of the author. I've since read "Ender's Game" which is completely different and completely amazing. I enjoyed reading your review.

Amanda said...

Thanks for the review! I've been wanting to read this books since it seems like such a departure from his other types of work. I'm also a sucker for these types of books. :)