"Brace yourself, Vassa. Be strong. There's a tragic shortage of heroes in the vicinity and nobody will do this if you don't."
Wow, I loved this. A significantly more satisfying Alice in Wonderland-style tale with a jerkish yet savvy narrator, who's voice I adored.
It's a classic heroes journey where the opposition holds all the pieces and the hero, none. Everything must be figured out, trial-and-error style, and the frustration and triumph Vassa experiences is visceral and real. The writing was clever, the wordplay was tricksy and made me Think, and the story did something different with the original Baba Yaga and Vassalissa tale while still keeping its spirit alive.
It was bloody and gruesome, but not in bad taste: it never felt excessively so. I love a good heroine who isn't afraid to mess with severed bodies.