Egg & Spoon, Egg & Spoon, Egg & Spoon. What do I say about this book? Do you want to know how hard I worked to get my hands on a copy? I'm talking repeatedly looking it up, stalking the library, hopping in my car and driving like mad, sneaking between shelves, sweet-talking and pleading, and then once it finally got to me I had to leave it alone for two weeks while on a trip and when I got back, I had exactly four days to read it before it was due.
I'm not the most knowledgable person on Russian mythology but my favorite classes in college were the two semesters of Russian history that I took in my first year, much to the horror of my faculty adviser ("You're an English major!" she scolded, like that's an explanation). But I feel like the spirit of Imperial Russia has been captured beautifully in this book. I think one of the things that Maguire does particularly well is write the contrast between total poverty and overwhelming wealth in a very authentic manner, and then uses it to his advantage when it comes to the magic and mythos of the story. The story is about two girls, Elena and Ekaterina. Elena is poor, Ekaterina is very wealthy. When her personal train rolls through Elena's village and the girls happen to switch places, they set off a bizarre string of events that unveil all of Russia's mystery and magic.
For Elena, sudden transportation to luxury is its own form of magic. All the food and creature comforts she can wish for and provided, but the only thing she wants is to save her mother. So she plans to entreat the tsar--a figure as formidable and mythical as the firebird in her mind.
Ekaterina is dumbfounded to find her circumstances so humbled, and she in her pursuit of her lost train, she stumbles upon real magic. Baba Yaga, her house on chicken legs, and a very sassy cat. As Ekaterina and Baba Yaga head off in pursuit of Elena, they find themselves walking into an even more complicated quest that takes them to the firebird and ice dragon, all to save Russia.
The story is told from the point of view of a slightly intrusive yet strangely omniscient imprisoned monk. It's not until deep into the book that we discover his connection to the characters, but that's the brilliance of Maguire's plotting--everything is connected, everything moves quickly, and strange, quirky characters delight. Baba Yaga steals the show! She's irreverent and anachronistic and a little spoiled and completely entertaining. I loved her.
Also, the cover is a thing of beauty. Definitely worth purchasing as a hardcover!
Book borrowed from the library!