Mistress Of The Solstice
by Anna Kashina
As the head priestess of the ancient Solstice cult, Marya must sacrifice a virgin every year. She copes with this gruesome duty by assuming a mask of cold detachment, as her father—the evil tzar Kashchey—devours the maidens' souls to maintain his youth and power. It is his power alone that keeps Marya’s kingdom safe from all enemies—or so she was raised to believe.
When Ivan arrives on a quest to stop the virgin sacrifices, Marya throws all her magic against him. To maintain her life—and that of her father—she must destroy Ivan before he completes his quest. But can she find it in her heart to do so?
Baba Yaga, Leshy, Vodyanoi, and the ancient animal deities come alive in this beautifully crafted romantic story that will take you into the authentic world of Russian fairy tales—with a dark, sensual twist.
This was a very interesting twist on several Russian folktales. It wasn't a straight retelling but a story with fairy tales woven into it. There were characters that are well known, such as Baba Yaga, and the lesser known Primal Spirits. It was very much like reading Grimm's Fairy Tales, only with some naughty bits worked in. Because I'm sure I would have remembered if Grimm's had that much sex in it.
The writing style was rich and brought life to the story, especially the parts with Baba Yaga. I love anything about the old crone.
There were some odd grammatical mistakes, though that could be because of kindle formatting errors in the copy I was sent.
I have one complaint which kept me from rating this book four stars. The two main characters weren't people I really cared enough about. I knew from reading the synopsis that Marya was going to be difficult to like but I had hoped that eventually I would grow fond of her. I didn't like her at all, even at the end of the story. She was willfully blind to the fact that her father was evil and her sacrificing girls was nothing short of murder. Several times she felt anxious and troubled, but she pushed the thoughts away and kept on with it. She ignored everyone who had tried to tell her the truth. There were very few parts in the story where I could feel like I could empathize with her and it left me feeling like she didn't deserve Ivan's kindness. Anyone who knows they are doing wrong but ignore their intuition so they don't have to feel guilty isn't going to make my list of people I want to know. Even in the end I didn't feel as though she had really changed.
Ivan was more interesting, but we didn't get to know him very well. I was constantly trying to figure him out but there was no actual insight into his personality. He was a two-dimensional hero thrown into a quest by the other characters.
Even with the problems I had with the main characters, I was interested enough to keep reading. The world-building was unique and the addition of characters from Russian folklore made it fun to read.