Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Enchantment - Orson Scott Card

Title: Enchantment
Author: Orson Scott Card
Audiobook: 17 hours, 26 minutes
Read by: Stefan Rudnicki
FTC: Library book

I had read Orson Scott Card's awesome retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a long time ago.  While looking for a good fairy tale read for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge, I decided to download the audiobook and re-visit the story.

Orson Scott Card is normally known for his sci-fi stuff and while this isn't your typical sci-fi, it does have time travel and magic.  I think this was the perfect choice for Carl's challenge.

The synopsis:

The moment Ivan stumbled upon a clearing in the dense Carpathian forest, his life was forever changed. Atop a pedestal encircled by fallen leaves, the beautiful princess Katerina lay still as death. But beneath the foliage a malevolent presence stirred and sent the ten-year-old Ivan scrambling for the safety of Cousin Marek's farm.

Now, years later, Ivan is an American graduate student, engaged to be married. Yet he cannot forget that long-ago day in the forest--or convince himself it was merely a frightened boy's fantasy. Compelled to return to his native land, Ivan finds the clearing just as he left it.

This time he does not run. This time he awakens the beauty with a kiss . . . and steps into a world that vanished a thousand years ago. 

My thoughts:

The story is such an inventive retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  Ivan and his family were Jewish Russians who immigrated to America when he was just a boy.  Before they left and while visiting relatives in the country, Ivan stumbles upon what seems to be an enchanted forest where it looks like a person is sleeping under a pile of leaves.  Frightened, young Ivan runs away -- but that experience will haunt him as he grows up.

Fast forward some years and Ivan and his family are living in New York.  Ivan's a professor of Slavic language/culture/mythology and Ivan is going to college to study the same thing.  He decides to travel back to Russia to do research and goes back to that enchanted forest to see if what he remembered as a child was real or not.

Without giving much more away -- the kiss, the beauty awakes, and they step into her world.

What I liked about the story was the time travel aspect.  I loved seeing Katerina's world through Ivan's eyes.  In this world magic exists, fairy tales really happened, and the evil witch Baba Yaga has it out for Katerina's kingdom.

The story is narrated alternatively by Ivan, Katerina, Baba Yaga, Ivan's mother, and Ruth (Ivan's American fiance).  I absolutely adored the alternate viewpoints.  Baba Yaga's in particular because she was so very very nasty.  For some reason the lady who did the audiobook made me think that Baba Yaga looked and sounded like this (which was awesome):
Agnes Moorehead from Bewitched
What was even better is that to escape from Baba Yaga, Ivan and Katerina end up spending some time in Ivan's world.  It's fun to read what a person from the middle ages would think of our world - airplanes, kitchen appliances, etc.

While I've actually never read any other Orson Scott Card books (appalling I know), you are almost guaranteed a well written and thought out story which is t he case with Enchantment.

I'll admit I did have some gripes with the story.  It was very convenient that Ivan, his father and his mother all knew the rare and no longer used Slavic dialect that Katerina spoke.  In the story I'm sure it's part of the curse but kind of irked me.

Also, while the audiobook narrators did an awesome job, Ivan's voice was a very deep bass with a Russian accent while his character is supposed to be a thin guy with a runner's athletic body.  I just couldn't picture his voice matching his description.

And lastly, while I always love multiple narrators, I just didn't see the point of including Ruth, the jilted fiance.  It didn't detract from the story but I'm just not sure it was necessary.  I also felt that way with Ivan's family being Jewish.  There is a lot in the story, especially in the beginning, about how he had to convert to the Jewish faith of his mother's before they left Russia and while it didn't hurt the story line, I kept thinking that his being Jewish would have some impact on the story later on -- which it really didn't.
Other than that it was a fun book to listen to and a perfect choice for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

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