Image of a girl in a dress surrounded by trees and monsters at the bottom with a golden city at the top on the other side of a wall. Text says "The scariest monsters are the human-shaped ones. Genoveva Demova FOUL DAYS." Cover blurb text: "'A fresh, gritty world bursting with wonderful characters–and monsters galore!'-Allison Saft."

Foul Days

FOUL DAYS rating: four stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

Set in Chernograd, Bulgaria, FOUL DAYS by Genoveva Dimova (Tor/Macmillan, June 25, 2024) is a fantasy novel with a sassy, rough-and-tumble urban feel (think the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo). Chernograd is split by a Wall in which an evil magical creature is trapped, making passage next to impossible. The Wall also creates a Panem-like divide between rich and poor (our heroine, Kosara, is from the poor side). The Foul Days cause Kosara’s side of the city to be overrun with monstrous creatures. Kosara, a young witch and healer, fights the monsters and heals those attacked by them. An action-packed foray into Slavic folklore, especially if you want to discover (see this cool video by Mythology Unleashed, “Monsters of Slavic Mythology”), more scary creatures than just Baba Yaga.

Kosara gets mixed up with a detective named Asen (who hails from the rich side of the Wall) with an investigation underway. He is mysteriously immune to magic, which makes Kosara suspicious but comes in quite handy at times.

Best of all, there is a Baba Yaga character with a house on chicken legs: a very powerful witch named Vila. This is the first in a series called “The Witch’s Compendium of Monsters,” so hopefully we will see more of Vila in Book 2, MONSTROUS NIGHTS (Tor/Macmillan, October 22, 2024).

I fell asleep reading this novel and woke up and grabbed it; that’s how much I was vibing with FOUL DAYS. As a young girl, Kosara was ensorcelled by the Zmey (the Tsar of Monsters, both human and dragon), and he stalks her during the Foul Days.

Reading in context:

I’ve been obsessed with Baba Yaga from girlhood. Her house is the ultimate mobile home: requiring no fuel, only magic, to transport her from one place to another. Like many other myths, Baba Yaga seems to have originated with the need to keep kids safely out of the woods “or fill-in-the-blank will getcha!”

THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS by Sophie Anderson (Scholastic Press, 2018) introduces children to a nice version of Baba Yaga and reinforces the value of self-determination.

In the wonderful WITCHES ABROAD by Terry Pratchett (1991), a mysterious Mrs. Gogol lives in a house in a swamp with four duck feet. Pratchett was a master of parody.

THISTLEFOOT by Gennarose Nethercott (Anchor, September 2022), published in paperback by Penguin Random House in 2023) may be my favorite Baba Yaga tale ever, which features Baba Yaga’s grandchildren in New York who inherit her sentient house on chicken legs and go traveling around in it.

If you want a truly evil Baba Yaga, read ENCHANTMENT by Orson Scott Card (Penguin Random House, 2005). Her wicked genius is so stunning that I haven’t forgotten her since I read the novel in 2007.

What I’m reading right now:

EXILE IN GUYVILLE by Amy Lee Lillard (BOA Editions, May 21, 2024).

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