Book Reviews

Enchantment * Orson Scott Card Book Review

“He stopped short at the edge of the clearing and looked around. Shouldn’t it be a meadow here, where the sun could shine? Tall grass and wildflowers, that’s what it should be. But instead it was just like the forest floor, dead leaves thickly carpeting the undulating surface of the clearing. Nothing alive there.

What could be so poisonous in the ground here that neither trees nor grass could grow here? It had to be something artificial, because the clearing was so perfectly round.

A slight breeze stirred a few of the leaves in the clearing. A few blew away from the rise in the center of the clearing, and now it looked to Vanya as if it was not a rock or some machine, for the shape under the leaves undulated like the lines of a human body. And there, where the head should be, was that a human face just visible?

Another leaf drifted away. It had to be a face. A woman asleep. Had she gathered leaves around her, to cover her? Or was she injured, lying here so long that the leaves had gathered. Was she dead? Was the skin stretched taut across the cheekbones like a mummy? From this distance, he could not see. And a part of him did not want to see, wanted instead to run away and hide, because if she was dead then for the first time his dreams of tragedy would come true, and he did not want them to be true, he realized now for the first time. He did not want to clear the leaves away and find a dead woman who had merely been running through the woods and hit her head on a limb and managed to stagger into the midst of this clearing, hoping that she could signal some passing airplane, only she fell unconscious and died and …

He wanted to run away, but he also wanted to see her, to touch her; if she was dead, then to see death, to touch it.

He raised his foot to take a step into the clearing.”

In Enchantment, Card works his magic as never before, transforming the timeless story of Sleeping Beauty into an original fantasy brimming with romance and adventure.

The moment Ivan stumbled upon a clearing in the dense Carpathian forest, his life was forever changed. Atop a pedestal encircled by fallen leaves, the beautiful princess Katerina lay as still as death. But beneath the foliage a malevolent presence stirred and sent the ten-year-old Ivan scrambling for the safety of Cousin Marek’s farm.

Now, years later, Ivan is an American graduate student, engaged to be married. Yet he cannot forget that long-ago day in the forest — or convince himself it was merely a frightened boy’s fantasy. Compelled to return to his native land, Ivan finds the clearing just as he left it.

This time he does not run.

This time he awakens the beauty with a kiss . . . and steps into a world that vanished a thousand years ago.

“Prosi mene posagnõti za tebe,” she said slowly, each word separated. He understood now — easily, in fact: Ask me to marry you.

A rich tapestry of clashing worlds and cultures, Enchantment is a powerfully original novel of a love and destiny that transcend centuries . . . and the dark force that stalks them across the ages.

What I liked:
This book is a perfect “what if scenario”. What if I could travel back in time to 896 AD, live in a medieval kingdom, marry the princess and fight the evil witch Baba Yaga who is a pretender to the throne?
What if I found out I am as unfit there as a medieval knight would be in today’s modern world? What if my strength in books and intellectual curiosity would be deemed peculiar and fit for a mere “Scribe”?

Echoes of Narnia sound (including some slightly preachy undertones) as Ivan is drawn back into the princess’s time. He finds that he has no skills useful in the ninth century, and yet must find a way to defeat the witch Baba Yaga, who has harnessed the power of a god to take over Princess Katerina’s kingdom.

I also loved the myth debunk of Baba Yaga:

So Brat’s precious “Yaga” was Bear’s wife now, and no one even remembered that she had once been Olga, a hopeful young princess in a lovely kingdom on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. And now that she happened to be getting on in years, they were starting to call her Baba Yaga — grandmother, of all things! Of course it was ironic. A term of endearment, used for someone they hated and feared so much? The accusation that she ate babies was so widespread that she was tempted to cook one up and taste it someday, just to see what all the fuss was about. Grandmother, indeed.

I also loved how they discussed life in a small medieval village, the introduction of Christianity for the Slavs, the keeping of the Pagan rites despite the apparent conversion for the sake of the king and the superstitious people.Ancient-jewelry-headwear-of-Russian-women-of-XI-XIII-centuries

I also liked the description of the modern world to an innocent medieval lady. Something similar was discussed in Stephen King’s 11/22/63 Book when the hero thinks about bringing Sandie back from the 60’s to 2010. Imagine the culture shock!

What I didn’t like?
Not much really. The book is a great story for children and adults alike, it shows the strengths required to be a man and a good king and the importance of keeping promises. (And never marry the first girl you meet!)

Read first 4 chapters online:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Ivan brings his betrothed into the modern world to keep her from Yaga’s clutches and the pair learn to understand not only each other, but each other’s powers and weapons. By the time they return to the fairy-tale world, they are armed with modern-day knowledge and aided by Ivan’s relatives, who turn out to be minor Russian deities and witches. In an apparent desire to make his tale believable, Card leaches it of some of its magic, offering up the extraordinary as matter of fact, and his characters lack some of the depth that usually makes his writing so rewarding. His new look at a classic tale is clever, however, adding attractive whimsical twists and cultural confluences to a familiar story. Author tour. (Apr.)


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