The setting of this book is truly one of the main characters. I'm so glad that I read this book in winter, the impact of this book would not be the same if you read this on a beach somewhere I think. The Russia of this book is cold and dark, with dark foreboding forests and squat, small villages.
The story centers around Vasilisa; the youngest girl of her land holding noble family. There is something different about her, maybe having something to do with the fact that her mother and her grandmother were always accused of having some magical or at least strange tendencies. There's no denying that Vasilisa is different. The spirits that live in the forest, in their home, in their stables and even in the village bathhouse are all obvious to her. She talks to them and brings them food.
Upheaval comes twice in short order to Vasilia's life. Her mother died minutes after giving birth, so her father after a few years decides to go to Moscow to find a new bride. The czar basically forces him to marry a certain woman with noble blood...but who also sees the same things that Vasilia sees but instead of "oh these are just little magical beings who have been a part of this already old place for a very long time" she sees "DEMONS!". This gets even worse when she leaves the city for the country. She's a very pious woman, and so she makes sure that a new priest follows her shortly after she leaves for the countryside. This new priest immediately feels that Vasilia is (somehow, simultaneously) alluring, frightening and repulsive to him. Lots of mixed feelings there.
With the new priest comes big changes to the townspeople who are encouraged to disregard their superstitious ways. This means the little spirits that protect that village and it's occupants are weakened enough that something evil is able to find it's way in........
I liked this book. I like folklore stuff, I like magical realism stuff, I have a well documented weird obsession with Russia here on this blog. I feel like it maybe went a little of the rails at the end, but overall a very good book with interesting characters. Snuggle under a blanket and read this book!