The Dream Stealer by Gregory Maguire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This short novel reads like a fable, ripe with Russian culture and built on the foundation of well-known and more obscure Russian folklore. Two children in a small village in Russia called Miersk face the knowledge that the Blood Prince, a huge, demonic wolf, is coming their way and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Underneath all the fable elements, there is a strong theme of the alienation of childhood from adulthood. Children are rarely heeded, listened to, or taken seriously. Through a benign sort of emotional neglect, adults leave children to build their own worlds and societies among themselves to fill an emotional void. I'm speaking in generalities. There are plenty of wonderful parents who are intimately involved in their children's lives. There are also parents who mean well, but are weighted under by the cares of life. You can see that dynamic in this book. Pasha's father is in the shadow of his own father, a dominant and opinionated man who dismisses Pasha's concerns as being ridiculous. Other than when he is needed for chores, it appears as though Pasha is left to his own devices. Whereas Lisette's father has been soured by the loss of his beloved wife and therefore neglects his daughter and his infant son when he's not raging and yelling at Lisette. Pasha and Lisette form a friendship of necessity that becomes true as they muster their courage to save their village from the Blood Prince.
I admit I rushed through reading this because I had to return it back to the library that day. I feel that I had taken my time, I would have been better able to bask in the richness of Russian culture on display. Russian culture is my thing. I have an absurd attraction to it and the language. Some might argue that mistakes were made, but I felt it was well done. There are some very lovely and magical moments that would make for a striking animated film that I hope will be made some day. Baba Yaga plays a prominent role and while she's generally regarded as a villain, she's a huge help to the people of the village, perhaps for her own reasons.
I think I would have given this a higher rating if it had been a little deeper and richer. I am probably asking too much, since this is a children's book. For what there was, it was a lovely little fable.
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