The Yaga siblings—Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist—have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive an inheritance, the siblings agree to meet—only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs.
Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home outside Kyiv—but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide—erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.
GennaRose Nethercott’s retelling of the mythos of Baba Yaga is wildly imaginative. The Yaga siblings are each unique in their abilities and personalities, each struggling with secrets, flaws, and trauma from their past. Nethercott infuses her story with wonder and pain in equal measures, using Eastern European mythology to explore generational trauma whilst creating a story that is immersive and a compulsive read. The language is evocative and gorgeous and the characters are compelling and magnetic.
Bellatine and Isaac are wonderful characters, each full of pain and darkness of their own, struggling to find a way to break through from the past. What I loved was Thistlefoot itself, the house, who has a voice that is layered with meaning and wisdom. The story uses that voice to tell the audience the history and terrible events of the past, memories that live on and haunt us. Using this wildly imaginative retelling of Baba Yaga to create a story of healing of generational trauma is beautiful and brilliant. If you love folklore and fantasy, I suggest reading this evocative, lovely story.
Rating: 5 out of 5 chicken legs.