The Witch and the Tsar By Olesya Salnikova Gilmore Review (Random Things Tours)
Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Witch and the Tsar (Published 8th December 2022) By Olesya Salnikova Gilmore. Happy Publication Day! A big thank you to the publishers HarperVoyager for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the lovely Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, you make being a part of this community awesome!
The Witch and the Tsar
As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.
As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan— soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.
About the Author
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the United States, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English / political science, and from Northwestern University School of Law with a JD. She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.
We have all heard the nightmarish tales of Baba Yaga. A boney hag who lives in the woods in her hut with chicken legs as she feasts on the bones of young children. But what if it was all a lie? A lie to hide the truth of who Baba Yaga really is. After not seeing each other for over a decade Tsaritsa Anastasia, wife of Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich shows up after having been poisoned. Once Yaga has performed a ritual to heal her, Anastasia begs Yaga to travel with her to Moscow. Yaga has been away from the world for years, only knowing of its hate against her. But who is trying to kill Anastasia? And for what purpose?
The story takes place in sixteenth-century Russia where Yaga lives deep in the forest with her wolf Dyen and owl Noch. She tends to anyone who calls upon her for healing and wisdom. The myth of Baba Yaga stalks her daily with people fearing to approach her incase she devours them. But one day a friend from the past approaches her, Tsaritsa Anastasia, wife of Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich needs her help. Someone at court is trying to poison her. Yaga eventually agrees and sees at court the dark forces that wish to manipulate and take control of the country.
Gilmore beautifully breathes life into the myth of Baba Yaga, making her a woman who feels, has heart and isn’t a demonic creature with an iron nose who preys upon the weak. I felt for Yaga, she is a strong female character who is cursed with the myth that she is a demon. She is lonely and has been for centuries with only her animals for company. The woods have been her safe haven, away from the pitchforks and whispers of her witchcraft. Yaga wishes she could live among mortals, being a healer and advisor as she enjoys filling her empty house with her potions. Not only does it keep her mind busy but it gives her a sense of purpose. For a time Yaga moved from village to village helping those who needed her but it always ended the same way. Chased out by talks of demonic and unnatural powers, eating humans and decorating her house with human skulls. No matter where she goes Yaga’s legacy clings to her preventing such a life, always casting doubt on those who wish to seek her out.
I enjoyed reading about Yaga’s origins, how her father was mortal and her mother was a goddess. Yaga’s body has not aged past thirty despite being on Earth for centuries. Her appearance baffles people when they meet her as she is not the haggard boney witch they are expecting. She has wild black hair with the odd grey streak and her arms are covered in art. Yaga has tried time and time again to convince mortals that she is not what they think to no avail. I felt strongly for Yaga, the years of being alone and everyone thinking the lies and rumours told were true. But she continues to strive, to fight and help those who need her. I admired her bravery and determination.
I give The Witch and the Tsar By Olesya Salnikova Gilmore a Five out of Five paw rating
Hypnotising and enchanting, you will be captivated from the moment you start reading. I could not put this book down. This refreshing new take on Baba Yaga was fascinating to read, I could not get enough. Highly recommended.
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