Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Umpteen millions things to do today but I had to write this short blog entry as I was so in the “reading flow” as Kelly Gallagher calls what I call "unconscious delight" in his intriguing book called Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Readicide/Kelly-Gallagher/e/9781571107800/?itm=1&USRI=readicide+how+schools+are+killing+reading+and,

I was so in the flow, the world disappeared around me and I was in Russia. I wanted to spend the rest of the morning curled up with Sarwat Ghadda's Dark Goddess http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Goddess-Devils-Kiss-Novel/dp/1423127595/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288098714&sr=8-1 What an incredible sequel. Check out the cover art for this book. I shivered just looking at the background of snow falling around a Russian palace. At the forefront stands Billi (Bilquis), a Templar squire and the only woman member of the Knights of the Templar, with sword in hand.

Quite different from the cover on the debut title which makes Bill look more like a romance character in a flowing dress while the shadow of man stands in the background. Billi proves to be no shrinking violet in when we first meet her in Devil's Kiss http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Kiss-Sarwat-Chadda/dp/1423120221/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1 She is rebelling against her father, the master of the Knights of the Templar, who forced her to begin training at age twelve. She did her her best to hide the training bruises and wounds while trying to look like any other high school girl. She wants a normal life but that is never going to happen, especially when a new love interest, Mike, turns out to be the Michael, the Angel of Death. I won't tell you how that battle ends.

In Dark Goddess Billi's foe is no other than Baba Yaga of Russian folklore and she wants young Vasilisa, the Spring Child, the Oracle, whom the Templars are trying to protect. If the witch of Russian lore, Baba Yaga, devours Vasilisa she will gain the strength to cause a natural disaster. The disaster will in turn cause the Fimbulwinterm, ridding the Earth of the horrible humans who have ravaged it and Baba Yaga as she is the Earth. She is the Dark Goddess and revered by the werewolves, the Plenitsy - Man-Killers. The Templar Knights join forces with the Russian Bogatyrs to find the Spring Child only to discover the Bogatyrs are seeking the Oracle for reasons of their own. Intent on taking imperial power in Russia, their leader is furnishing humans for the vampires to feed on. This man has sworn to protect Prince Ivan but he wants him dead, but not by his own hands.

I remember reading the tales about Baba Yaga when I was a child and her house that stood on chicken legs - she was by far more frightening to me than the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Chadda has brought my memories to life with his description of Baba Yaga - "She shuffled into the faint candlelight, and the shadows deepened around her. She walked hunchbacked, but even so was thirteen feet tall. Rags covered her skeletal frame - animals skins and ancient furs. Insects scuttled in her floor-length white hair, which formed a veil over her face. Only the eyes peered out. Black, shiny, ancient. Her nails - long, curved daggers - clicked against her bone staff." The hair raised on my arms just reading this description. A horrific, "virtually strenuous" read that has me internally shrieking in fear as Billi battles one fiend after another. It is is a mix of folklore, myth, and horror and downright deliciously terrifying. Not for the faint of heart! My fingers and arms are sore from vicariously swinging a sword alongside Billi. And I think I'm scared of the dark again!

I just went to Chadda's web site http://www.sarwatchadda.com/ and you can read the first chapter of Dark Goddess.

Curiosity was just killing this cat over the name Bilqis so I had to look it up. It is a derivation of the the Islamic name for the Queen of Sheba, Bilquis. I love how myths, legends, and lore find their way across cultural and geographic barriers, giving us all stories and tales that resonate with us no matter where and when we lived and listened to them. The retelling of these tales, orally or in written format, reminds us all that we are no so different after all.

Chadda's website also talks about The Chainsaw Gang
http://www.sarwatchadda.com/the-chainsaw-gang/ - a group of YA authors who write horror. Check out the covers on these horror titles for YAs. Just the covers should creep-out even the most avid teen horror fan. Sam Enthoven's Crawlers cover art has my skin crawling! Check out Enthoven's other titles at:
http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?WRD=sam+enthoven&box=sam%20enthoven&pos=-1 You may recognize his name from The Black Tattoo
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Black-Tattoo/Sam-Enthoven/e/9781595141330/?itm=3&USRI=sam+enthoven about a demon possessed teen.

As much as I want to finish the book, I have to defer the pleasure for later. I was one of those kids/teens who hid my "recreational reading," as Gallagher calls it, behind the textbook as the other kids in class laboriously stumbled over passages aloud in class. As if reading the chapter in the World History text was going to make this stuff any more interesting or real! Bring in Dark Goddess and tell them about Prince Ivan, the son of the Anastasia, the Russian Princess who legend says escaped the family massacre. And Rasputin, the Oracle who lost the fight with Baba Yaga. Make history interesting.

Bring in a picture book version of Baba Yaga like Marianna Mayer's Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Baba-Yaga-and-Vasilisa-the-Brave/Marianna-Mayer/e/9780688085001/?itm=2&USRI=baba+yaga with detailed illustrations by Kinuko Y. Craft. All picture books are not for very young children and this Russian tale is one of them. The illustrations in picture books can bring to life history so much better than the dry textbook can. I did find it interesting that no recently published retellings of this tale came up when I changed the search parameters to recent titles first. Mostly from back in the 90's. Time to pull out those copies and display them with the other Halloween/horror books.