Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (Leningrad Diptych #1)

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I have always been a sucker for folklore-inspired books – such as Uprooted, such as The Bear and the NightingaleThe ScarThe Ill-Made MuteIn the Forests of Serre…and now Deathless.

No one is now what they were before the war. There’s no way getting any of it back.

But while the other books play the elements relatively straight, only expanding them at need, this is a dark, brutal deconstruction; like, yet unlike the other retellings. The worldbuilding is excellent. Instead of the middle ages it is set roughly during the both World Wars, so it’s hardly a surprise. Half historical fiction, half mythology, there are rifle imps and communist house spirits, soldier factories, battles from history that are really fought between Life and Death, and a protagonist that embraces the darkness rather than fighting it. The characters are not particularily deep, but I felt like they don’t really have to be in retellings, if the atmosphere and the language and the symbolism are strong enough to carry it.

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