Book Review: The Witch and the Tzar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore


Title: The Witch and the Tsar

By: Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432

Release Date: September 22nd, 2022

Publisher: Ace

Rating: ★★★★★


Summary from Goodreads:

In this stunning debut novel, the maligned and immortal witch of legend known as Baba Yaga will risk all to save her country and her people from Tsar Ivan the Terrible—and the dangerous gods who seek to drive the twisted hearts of men.

As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar, and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.

As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore weaves a rich tapestry of mythology and Russian history, reclaiming and reinventing the infamous Baba Yaga, and bringing to life a vibrant and tumultuous Russia, where old gods and new tyrants vie for power. This fierce and compelling novel draws from the timeless lore to create a heroine for the modern day, fighting to save her country and those she loves from oppression while also finding her true purpose as a goddess, a witch, and a woman.


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A wonderful tale that tears at the heart.

I loved this book. Olesya Salnikova Gilmore is a new author form me, but she has the writing style of Katherine Arden, who I also love. 

This mysterious story follows some pretty fantastic characters as their stories weave overtime, but ultimately, everything rests on the shoulders of Yaga, as she tries her best to save Russia and its people from themselves. I loved how mythology and history combine to tell this tale of love and betrayal. 

I can't wait to see what this author comes out with next.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.

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