The idea of Baba Yaga is intriguing. When I looked up the word – or name – it seems that it has the same meaning in many of the Slavic languages. She is what we would know as a witch, an old ugly hag of a witch with nothing but wickedness in her heart. This is what I read as a kind of preliminary study for reading this novel. My previous experience with the name is from a children's book called Babushka Baba Yaga, a title that caused a Bulgarian woman I know to giggle when I asked her what it meant. She told me that it was a grandmother witch. And in every source I could find, be it Russian, Bulgarian or anywhere else, the original Baba Yaga is known for being very old, very ugly and eating children.
This book takes it in a new direction. There are two Baba Yagas. (In the folklore I read about, there were sometimes three, all with the same name. In this book they each have a different name, and the name Babayaga seems to become a noun.) One of Barlow's Baba Yagas is the typical hideous old woman that would naturally come to mind. The other, though, is a young (looking), sexy woman who can't keep herself from misbehaving. (Killing lovers = misbehaving) He eventually tells each of their stories, in a Vampire Lestat historical style. (Coincidentally, we had a cold snap while I was reading this book and reading about the horrible winters in Russia was particularly effective sitting on my sofa with a throw over myself.)
The two fellows that happen upon them are as delightful as the witches are mysterious. Both are from the U.S. (the book takes place in and around Paris, France in the 50's) and both from the Midwest. One is happy-go-lucky with a cocktail in his hand and the other is more of a brooding, romantic type. Not a Louis the Vampire kind of brooding. Just a confused and accidentally in love kind.
The characters are fun and I very much enjoyed reading the book. I looked forward to it while I was working, even. I suppose that the one thing I could say critical about it is that it's slightly predictable. Just a little bit, not terribly so. I was reading until my eyes wouldn't stay open, so it had to have something unexpected to keep me hooked. It's just not the dark, sinister book that I thought it was going to be.
All in all, though, I'd very much recommend this book.