Author: Gregory Maguire
Rating: ** (2 stars out of 3, "B")
Audience: 5th Grade and Up
This whimsical youth novel by Wicked Author Gregory Maguire defies categorizing: Part folk/fairytale, part fantasy, part allegory, but full-on creative entertainment. I had never read anything quite as charming or challenging before.
The overall story is one of mistaken identity, Prince and Pauper-style. It is turn-of-the-century (1900) Tsarist Russia, and impoverished villager Elena Rudina finds herself exchanging places with Princess Ekaterina ("Cat") on a train bound for St. Petersburg. Along the way, the reader encounters the harsh realities of peasant life, along with the delightful Russian folklore of Baba Yaga (the wise-cracking, time-traveling witch whose house walks about on chicken legs), the Fire Bird (a Russian Phoenix), Faberge eggs, nesting dolls, soldiers, and an Ice Dragon.