Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
I first read this book in my sophomore year of high school, after my Chemistry teacher lent it to me and bought it for myself this week after being reminded of it by the new movie Enchanted. Very far removed from Card’s Ender series this book still shows his calling cards especially in the beginning when the reader is introduced to Ivan, a precocious ten-year-old. The rest of the story, though, bears little resemblance to the space-based world of the other tales. Card explores a different world in this tale, the fantasy what-if of: “What if Sleeping Beauty was awakened in Russia in 1992?”
What I find amazing in this book is the incredible mix of Russian folklore, Jewish and Christian history, contemporary politics and just good story telling. The classic Russian arch-nemesis, Baba Yaga is after the kingdom of the gorgeous princess Katerina. Ivan, who just happens to be a scholar of ancient tongues, understands her proto-slavic, and is taken back to her time, 900 AD, to become her husband.
A modern athlete, but not suited for medieval living, he works hard to fit in with her time while also wishing to go home. He is not immediately attached to his fiancée either, and they do not really fall in love until he brings her back to the US in 1992 where his family emigrated. They make the plans needed to attempt to defeat Baba Yaga’s army with the help of his mother (a witch, which he only finds out when Katerina recognizes it)
Although some of this feels a bit contrived, within the novel it works well, is woven together with just a hint of mystery at the end to imply that there is more under the surface that the reader is not allowed to know. It may be the case that Card himself didn’t know, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. I love this book for it’s wonderful mix of fairy tale and modernity and highly recommend it.