Marya Morevna is the youngest of four sisters living in early 1900's Russia. She watches as each of her sisters marries, seeing that each of the men was first a bird that watched the house before transforming and knocking at the door. Armed with this knowledge, she waits for her own bird husband to arrive.
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As she waits, focused on the day he will arrive, she ignores the world around her and is only vaguely aware of the revolution brewing in the country. But soon it is at her door when the Tsar falls and Lenin takes over. Marya's home is now also the home of a dozen other families, and her life becomes full of drudge work and very little magic.
Then her bird man shows up, but instead of a polite suitor like her sisters got hers is none other than Koschei the Deathless, a demonic figure from Russian folklore that rules over life itself. He takes her to his kingdom and they go through a brutal, passionate, and cruel courtship. He shows her luxuries and secrets but refuses to wed her.
She attempts to win Koschei's respect by finding his death, which he has hidden to remain immortal. The witch Baba Yaga helps and threatens her by turns along the way.
Meanwhile Koschei is locked into eternal battle with his brother, who rules over death. Their battle grows fiercer and Marya eventually leads Koschei's armies in it. Along the way she meets Ivan, a brave mortal man who the fairy tales have told her she will fall in love with. Marya finds herself having to decide her path between these two men and their respective immortal and mortal realities.
Best scene in story:
When Marya first meets Baba Yaga.
Opinion about the main character:
Marya is strong and intelligent, but weakest in her need for something magical in her life.