Loved this so very much!!
First of all, though, that title. It’s terrible. It tells you almost nothing. I never would have read the book, except that my husband sent me a list of Harry Potter read-alikes and this was on the list, so I downloaded a sample (plus I had also read “Ender’s Game” and liked it.) I can see why they went with “Enchantment,” though, because in a way this story encompasses nearly every fairy tale. In a time traveler’s paradox, the story more or less claims that the main character Ivan/Yvonne (depending on whether we’re using his Jewish or Russian name) goes back in time and becomes the protagonist in the original versions.
Quick recap: Ivan is a Jew (though he wasn’t raised as one) living in Russia around the time that the Berlin wall falls. His parents decide to rediscover their Jewish roots in order to aid their immigration to America. But just before he leaves, as a child, Ivan discovers a beautiful girl in an enchanted sleep. He thinks about that girl all his life, even though he grows up and gets engaged in America to a Jewish girl named Ruth. But one thing leads to another, and before he can marry Ruth, he contrives a reason to go back to Russia in the course of his studies (incidentally on Russian fairy tales). He finds the girl again, kisses her awake, and finds that he has to fight the bear who is guarding her. The girl tells him (in a proto-Slavonic language from the 9th century that he can understand only because he’s a linguistic scholar) that he has to ask her to marry him in order to escape. He does, she agrees, and they escape into the 9th century–into a village that has vanished from history in his world 1000 years later.
Compared to the men of 9th century Russia, Ivan is a weakling and nobody respects him, even though in the 1990s, he is considered an athlete. He’s shamed and abused at every turn, and even Katarina doesn’t think much of him. Cultural clashes abound. Meanwhile, we meet Baba Yaga, the witch who cursed Katarina in the first place for her own dastardly purposes of domination, and who also enchanted Bear (who turns out to be a god) and forced him to guard the princess.
Katarina and Ivan/Yvonne eventually have a sweet love story which blossoms when they have to cross over into Ivan’s world to escape from Baba Yaga and also to learn how to defeat her. Magic abounds in the story, both subtle and magnificent, couched in such a rich tapestry that it almost doesn’t even feel made up. I’m sure that Card had to do massive amounts of research on various versions of fairy tales throughout the ages, a well as of various different cultures, to pull off a story like this. I wouldn’t call it a Harry Potter read-alike–it has a very different feel to it–but it’s still a delightful story in which everything fits together seamlessly. Such a great read!
My rating: *****
Language: a few words here and there but very minor
Sexual content: present, but very tasteful (and in the context of marriage)
Violence: magical only, so it doesn’t really count I don’t think
Political content: none