Egg & Spoon
By Gregory Maguire
Published 2014 by Candlewick Press
Elena lives in a poor Russian village, made poorer by her dead father, her sickly mother, and her absent brothers. When a train arrives in her village - on its way to see the Tsar - Elena could not have anticipated it would carry a girl her age as well. An extraordinary mix-up will change the lives of both girls - and perhaps even Russia.
So, like lots of people, I adored Maguire's Wicked. I've had every intention of reading his other books but, best laid plans and all. So, when this one popped up on NetGalley, I requested away. This one is being marketed for young adults and I've become more intrigued with Russian folklore in recent years.
I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed. I've seen this book receive several glowing reviews from professional journals, as well as discussion as a Printz or Newbery contender, but I just don't see it. What Maguire has done well are the characters - I adored them all, although I felt the narrator a bit jarring at times. But I completely loved spending time with Elena and Cat and Anton and Baba Yaga - in fact, Baba Yaga is one of my favorite recent characters. The plot is evocative of a traditional folk or fairy tale, but it felt disjointed and confusing at times. I don't want to tackle the audience issue, but this is a book that for me felt confused about what it wanted to be. I can see small populations of several audiences embracing this book, but I'm not sure who is would benefit best.
For me, the biggest problem is the pacing. It took me forever to finish this book, mainly because there were huge chunks of it that just weren't that interesting. It dragged tremendously for the first part of the book, setting up the plot (which, when you boil it down, is pretty simple) and building to the introduction of Baba Yaga. I expected a lot from this book and, unfortunately, it just didn't deliver for me. However, as always, your mileage may vary, and I can definitely see the reasons this book has garnered some rabid fans. I think I'll go revisit Wicked myself.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.