The Witch of Duva
by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #0.5
Published: June 5, 2012
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Novella, Young Adult
Format: eBook (43 pages)
There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls...or so the story goes. But it’s just possible that the danger may be a little bit closer to home. This story is a companion folk tale to Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, Shadow and Bone.
The Short Version
The Witch of Duva is a beautifully written fairy tale that feels close to our own fairy tales but it messes with your expectations by twisting the story around in new ways. This prequel novella reminded me of Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling. The Witch of Duva, like Tales of Beedle the Bard, is a fairy tale set in the same world that doesn’t necessarily advance the story but functions to flesh out the world and add a little more magic to it. I couldn’t find more of a connection between The Witch of Duva and Shadow and Bone other than they are both set in the same world. I actually prefer this kind of novella to one that tells some back story of a character. I feel like the fairy tale is something fun that lets me stay in that world a little longer. When I’ve read novellas that try to continue the narrative, I found myself bored. This fairy tale was beautiful and engaging and I highly recommend it.
The Jessica Thinks Too Much Version
There were just too many awesome and juicy details that I couldn’t skip discussing them. I will talk about the details of the book and the foreshadowing that I saw, but I won’t tell how it ends.
The Witch of Duva reminds me of Hansel and Gretel. Like Hansel and Gretel, there is a witch in the woods that eats girls. Nadya, the main character, talks about how her mother becomes sick and the only thing that comforts her is sweet cakes from Karina. I love the theme of food in this fairy tale – especially sweet food – that ties it into our fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. One theory of why the girls go missing is that they smell food in the forrest and wander off.
I can see hints now of what happens at the end now that I’m reading it again. It describes the girls as “full-grown girls near old enough to marry.” There’s lots of misdirection to Karina since we are seeing the events through Nadya’s eyes and she automatically doesn’t like Karina trying to replace her mother.
Karina sends Nadya into the forrest to find the rabbit traps and Nadya follows the white stones that mark the path that were left by her brother, Havel. I’m geeking out over all the Hansel and Gretel references!! Nadya gets lost because the stones get covered in snow. I like how this changes the Hansel and Gretel version to fit into the Russian-like setting of Ravka.
Hungry, Nadya finds a house that smells like cooking sugar. The old woman that lives in the house feeds her. I love how Nadya even mentions that she feels like she’s just being fattened up to be eaten later. But this is where the twists come in. The witch’s house becomes a safe place for Nadya instead of the other way around. The witch helps people and even hides Nadya so rumors don’t start that she kidnaps children. Haha! Oops too late.
I loved the elements that came from other fairy tales, too. There was a reference to the Gingerbread Man story. But again it’s different than I thought it would be. The witch also asks Nadya all the time what she wants that reminded me a little of the original Beauty and the Beast.
I had a blast reading the fairy tale. I loved analyzing it and thinking about it and just getting lost in the world.
Why are we so quick to villainize women?
The thing that made me think the most about this story was how easy we are to attach sinister motives to women when their outward actions show mostly kindness. It only takes one or two harsh things for us to immediately hate a woman when men do much worse things and it often gets looked over. What do you think?
Content Rating: Medium, for a suggestive scene.
This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.