A Handful of Earth by Larisa Walk
|Title:||A Handful of Earth|
|Pub Date:||November 01, 2011|
As the Mongol Horde draws near her tiny Russian principality, a spinster princess Yaroslava fears the worst. Her father is too old and ill to organize the defense. Yet her people would not follow her because she is a woman. The princes from the neighboring city-states and principalities won’t come to help because of the old feuds. Worse yet, Yaroslava receives a foretelling that she will betray her people.
Yelnik, the principality’s throne town, falls. Most of its defenders perish. Attractive women and craftsmen are taken into slavery. Yaroslava herself becomes a slave, destined to serve the Mongol khan as his concubine. In captivity she faces many enemies.
Usually when there is a historical fiction concerning Russia, it's about the Romanovs and Bolshevik Revolution, and the USSR times. So when I spotted this book, I thought it was a nice change to see a book that deals with another part of Russian history.
For someone like me who loves folklore, this was really enjoyable read. Throughout the whole book all the Russian pagan beliefs were captured nicely, and so was the way people managed to be pagans and Christians at the same time. Some of the folklore figures also played important role in the story plot. There were also some mentions of the Mongolian beliefs. I loved that!
When it comes to the characters, Yaroslava was the only really complex one. Others were there mainly to support her, or at least that's how I see it. But that's all right, it's her story after all. She was very likable, from the very first page I felt connected to her. She was a sensitive, yet strong, and intelligent character.
I enjoyed the fact the author wasn't afraid to show some blood and dying. It helped a lot to portray that time.
There are two things I would change about this book. First, the cover. I find it quite nice, because it screams "Russian folklore", but I don't think it would appeal to many readers.
Second, the Russian words in italic. There were far too many. I would find English equivalents for some of them, to make it less confusing for English readers.
All in all this was amazing and entertaining tale! I'd love to read something else by this author.