Author: Rena Rossner
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group UK
Release Date: 27th September 2018
Number of Pages: 464
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.
*I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review*
This novel is a retelling of The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti and has many other Russia myths woven in.
The novel follows the story of two sisters who live with their parents at the edge of a town along the Moldova and Ukraine border. Who are isolated from their town due to the fact that their mother is a Jewish covert, despite this they have lived in relative peace until one day a relative of their father turns up at their door asking their father to go back to his home town as his father is dying. Their mother and father decide to leave the sisters at home due to the dangers that those of the Jewish faith face when traveling. However, before they leave their mother tells them a family secret that will change their lives forever and makes them promise to protect each other from the dangers lurking in the woods.
The story follows two POVs one for each of the sisters. The first is Liba who is 17, very devoted to her religion and reserved. The second is Laya who is 15, she is much more carefree than her sister and more open. Both of these POVs are written in different formats, Liba’s is in standard format while Laya’s is in alternative verse. I really loved how each of these formats fit with each sister’s personality. Liba’s is more in depth and detailed, whereas Laya’s is more flowy and dreamlike. I also feel like I connected with each sister in different ways. Like Liba I’m more reserved and feel like I’m always on the outside looking in and like Laya I’ve always wanted to fly away.
This book also follows the each of the girls sexual awakening as now that the girls parents are away they are both able to explore love and lust in their own way. Liba with a fellow Jew from her town who she doesn’t believe that her father would approve of and Laya with one of the new boys who have turned up in town selling fruit. I love how this theme of the book really helps each girl to learn the true meaning of unconditional love.
This is such an atmospheric book and the writing in this is so beautiful and lyrical and really makes you feel like you are there when reading it.
Trigger Warnings for antisemitism, unhealthy thoughts around eating and body image, abuse, death and past slavery and rape.
Overall, this book had me hooked from the first line and while this is definitely a hit or miss kind of book, I’m so glad to say that it was a complete hit with me. I gave this 5 out of 5 stars.
On another note, if you pick up the book make sure you read the authors note as it heart-breaking and really helps you to understand the authors reasons and inspirations for writing the novel.
I buddy read this book with the amazing Melanie from Mel To The Any and you can read her review here.