Book Review: Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire is a middle grade fantasy novel. Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years, and her mother lies dying as her brothers have left home. One brother was taken into the Tsar’s army and the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. There is no food, and very little hope. Then a train arrives in the village carrying a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg—a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. Lives collide and an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, and Baba Yaga complete with her house perched on chicken legs.

Egg and Spoon is a book that takes the prince and the pauper along with classic tales of Russian folklore and turns them on their heads. Elena is our pauper, she has nothing- no food and a dwindling family- but she does have innocence and a few people that care for her deeply. Ekaterina has so much food that she refuses to eat everything on her plate in fear of gaining weight, but has only a great aunt that cares for her. When their lives intertwine everything changes, for everyone. Baba Yaga, the firebird, and the ice dragon all have their roles to play- as does a legendary Faberge Egg and a visit to the Tsar. I found the story itself to be delightful, and I loved the twists to folklore and the preconceived notions that everyone had about themselves and each other. What I did find distracting was the pacing. I felt like it took me forever to read this book, but I wanted to found out how things came together enough to finish the book. It just seemed to plod along. 

Gregory Maguire is a name you might recognize as the author of Wicked and it's sequels. So it is no surprise to readers that know this to find the take on Baba Yaga is not what you might expect in Egg and Spoon. If you have not ventured into Maguire's adult fiction, then his thorough descriptions and attention to detail might have caught you unaware. The same could be said for his unusual take on mythology and the struggles of class. 

I would recommend Egg and Spoon to Maguire fans, and those that enjoy highly descriptive fiction. There is fantasy, and the struggles of young people trying to find their way. However, I think adults will be the ones most likely to enjoy the book, as its slow pace might lose younger readers along the way.

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