Saturday, April 19, 2008

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Enchantment is the story of a Ukraine-born, American grad student who finds himself transported to the ninth century to play the prince in a Russian version of Sleeping Beauty. Early in the story, he muses that in a French or English retelling of the tale, the prince and princess would live happily ever after. But, "only a fool would want to live through the Russian version of any fairy tale."

Although his fears turn out to be warranted, as he and his cursed princess contend with the diabolical witch Baba Yaga--easily Russia's best pre-Khrushchev villain--to save the princess's kingdom, Enchantment is ultimately a sweet story. Mixing magic and modernity, the acclaimed Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game) has woven threads of history, religion, and myth together into a convincing, time-hopping tale that is part love story, part adventure. Enchantment's heroes, "Prince" Ivan and Princess Katerina, must deal with cross-cultural mores, ancient gods, treacherous kinsmen (and fianceés), and ultimately Baba Yaga herself.

This wasn't bad, but it didn't grab me. I kept with it, and parts were amusing and I liked reading about the Ukraine and culture and getting an idea of the old folk tales and evil witches and good kings and princesses. But, I had high hopes and thought it would be better; the book had been highly recommended to me. I found it dragged in parts, and for me it was just okay. But, I adore time-travel stories and enjoyed it in that respect.

Overall the story is good and I like the way Ivan is transported back in time and then Katerina is transported to his time for a while. This gives them both the other's perspective of where they're coming from (literally) and they learn to respect and eventually love one another. The book wraps up well, though there is still room for a sequel in case he ever feels like writing one.

This is the first book that I've read of Card's, so I don't know if he does this in his other books too, but he tends to throw things in to the book that will later date it (Stephen King does this a lot too). Among them are references to the New York area, as if everyone knows how far Sag Harbor is from Kennedy Airport (I know, but I'm familiar with Long Island!) and who is Bruce Cockburn? Some singer from the 90's? During a somewhat crucial scene when Ivan and Katerina are finally going to consummate their marriage Ivan reaches over and turns on the CD player and it's playing Bruce Cockburn? Who is he and what does he sound like? I found it a bit annoying as the lyrics and song are described and I have no idea who he is. I can understand having something like this in a fanfic (such as mine! *grin*) but not in a published work by a well known author. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't like it, I thought it was kind of corny. I guess Orson Scott Card likes this singer.

This book is sort of Jewish comedy/time travel/fairy tale story. I liked Ivan, but Katerina was a little hard to like in the beginning, since she's so mean to Ivan at first. I enjoyed the story more when they are back in America together, actually. That's where Ivan and Katerina finally fall in love, up to that point it was a battle between them. But, even their falling in love was a quick thing, not a lot of emotion or inner feelings. Suddenly they love each other! He wrote Ivan well, but Katerina was definitely lacking in depth, maybe it's because she's a woman, and Card has trouble writing from a woman's perspective. I found it lacking. I would have preferred more warmth in her character, she was pretty cold through a lot of the book. Her final showdown with Baba Yaga pretty much fizzled out as well. The one female exception: Ivan's mother, Esther, I really liked her a lot and appreciated everything she did for him. She's a wise woman, very sly when she needs to be. I'm glad she and Katerina hit off right away. Baba Yaga was a good character too, but she was an old crazy, evil witch, not supposed to be a real person. (I did like her husband, the Bear, though!)

Anyway, I'm glad I read it and know what it's all about, but I'm not in any hurry to read anything by this author in the future.


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