Christmas cocoa

Rusalka, by CJ Cherryh

This book is wall-to-wall h/c idfic, OMFG.

It was one of my favorite books as a teenager, reread 'til it was falling apart, but I was concerned it wouldn't hold up since I think it's been at least a decade since I last read it. I needn't have worried. DID I MENTION THE WALL TO WALL IDFIC. And it's a pretty solid book otherwise, too.

Rusalka is set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia, with deliciously believable magic -- subtle and often deniable (is it the Yard-Thing that drinks the saucers of milk left out for it, or the barnyard cat?), but omnipresent in everyday matters of luck and superstition. Sasha is a young man who has magic powers, or at least he believes so. He can make things happen just by wishing them. Literally anything. When he was a small child, he made the house burn down to stop his father's abuse, killing both his parents -- or so he and everyone else in his hometown believe. Now the whole town thinks he's bad luck, and Sasha has desperately trained himself not to want anything, or think about things, or get angry, for fear of accidentally killing someone, retreating into a life of miserable isolation. (As the other protagonist says to him later: "That's hell you live in, Sasha." And it is.)

Pyetr is the orphaned son of a murdered gambler, cultivating wealthy friends in an attempt to rise above his gutter beginnings. He doesn't believe in magic -- or in nebulous things like friendship and love for that matter. His career of inveterate rakitude comes to a sudden and bloody end when a jealous husband stabs him near-fatally on page three. His wealthy fair-weather friends abandon him and the only person in the whole town who'll help him is fellow outcast Sasha, which leads to the two of them on the run in a winter-dead wilderness full of old, wild magic.

Pyetr soon attracts the attention of a rusalka, i.e. the ghost of a drowned girl, who can only survive by stealing the life energy of the living, although she doesn't want to. This is Eveshka, the third major character. Between this and the sword wound, Pyetr spends the entire book in various states of swooning, feverish collapse, in between getting attacked by monsters and railing against the fact that he DOESN'T BELIEVE IN MAGIC DAMMIT and WHY THE HELL IS THIS HAPPENING TO HIM. Meanwhile lonely Sasha attaches to him hard, and Pyetr starts to figure out how to be the hero Sasha and Eveshka think he already is.

The book is currently out of print and can be bought directly from the author as an ebook or as a used book from Amazon. There are two sequels, which I vaguely remember were somewhat disappointing, or at least less massively idficcy, but I'll be reading them next, so I guess we'll see.

ETA: There's an interesting about-the-book page on the author's website in which she talks about how, when she was writing this book in the 1980s, the Cold War was still going on and the reference materials on Russian mythology, plants, etc. that she needed to write the book were next to impossible to find. She ended up swapping sci-fi with Russian fans in return for reference books.

ETA2: Wikipedia article on the books talks more about them, with no major spoilers.

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Well THAT just sounds like a must read...you had me at h/cy id fic (as you well know! ^___-) I read some of her scifi a LOOONG time ago, but don't remember ever seeing that one (may have already been out of print). Will so have to check it out! ^^
Definitely do! :) This book hits my narrative kinks amazingly well; I was really surprised how good it still was, and how much I apparently still love it, and them.
It is definitely worth reading! FWIW, even though they don't remind me of them in any obvious way (that is, the characters don't map directly onto each other), I got a very similar emotional vibe to White Collar. This book hits me emotionally in a lot of the ways White Collar does.
I was really impressed at how well it stood up compared to what I remembered, tbh. The plotting is a little weak in places, but the character dynamics and worldbuilding still get me just as hard as they ever did.
After I finished Rusalka, I went looking and found your lovely OT3 tag fic from years ago -- which I vaguely remember reading then, actually. They are such sweethearts! ♥

Edited at 2015-11-30 11:30 pm (UTC)
oh, joy of joys! I thought I had read all of her books! what great time to be wrong! *runs off to buy book*
Sasha has desperately trained himself not to want anything, or think about things, or get angry, for fear of accidentally killing someone, retreating into a life of miserable isolation. (As the other protagonist says to him later: "That's hell you live in, Sasha." And it is.)

OMG. *gimmie*

The book is currently out of print

*sobs*

The buy directly from the authors page option unfortunately doesn't work for me because I have too little money on Paypal and can't upload more. :(