Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Novella Review - The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo (5/5 stars)

Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Size: 614 KB
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone (prequel to the The Grisha Trilogy, but separate story)
Source: Bought
Rating: 5/5 stars

This is a short story set in the same world as Bardugo’s Grisha series. This story is set in Ravka but it is a prequel (timeline wise) it also follows different characters and is more of a folktale than anything else. The story has a very traditional dark folklore tale feel to it and was absolutely engrossing. I was amazed at what a great story Bardugo wove in such a small space. The characters were absolutely engaging and the story just sucked me right in.

The woods outside of Duva are said to eat girls, at least that has what Nadya has been raised believing. She gets to test the tale when her evil stepmom forces her out of the house at night and she finds herself at the door of the Witch of Duva herself.

Bardugo has said that Hansel and Gretel influenced this folktale, and you can definitely see the influences here...although this tale kind of turns Hansel and Gretel on its head.

Nadya is an excellent heroine, she is so easy to sympathize with. She’s a young girl with an okay life, but then as circumstances change and her father marries another woman and things get worse and worse for her. She is forced into a desperate situation where she must flee into the forest and confront the very thing that has always haunted her.

I was surprised at how engaging and entertaining all of the characters in this story were. They are so well developed and really came alive for me even though this was a very short story.

The suspense behind who/what the witch of Duva is and around the strange case of the disappearing girls is absolutely engrossing. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to figure out and predict what was going on.

There are a lot of twists and turns and by the end of the story no one is who you thought they would be and everyone is different from what you initially expected. The ending totally caught me by surprise, but then when I stopped to think about it I realized that there were a lot of carefully hidden hints throughout the story that supported the surprise ending. It takes a very masterful writter to mislead the reader so deftly and pull such a huge twist that is completely surprising but totally seamless with the rest of the story.

This is a dark and twisted folk tale and echoes many of the original Grimm fairy tales. Children are eaten and disappear, and dark things hunt the woods of Duva. Humanity follows a much harsher code and is much crueler than what we typically see in our day to day life now.

Overall an absolutely outstanding short story, I absolutely loved it. I immediately went out and bought The Too Clever Fox for my Kindle as well and can’t wait to read that. It is amazing that Bardugo can write not only spectacular novels but also spectacular short stories. In my opinion really well done short stories are very hard to write because you have to set up the world, characters, and plot is such a short amount of space. I highly recommend this short story to fans of the Grisha series and to fans of dark and grimm fairy tales.

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