In this reworking of an old fairy tale in a modern setting, Sleeping Beauty runs headlong into some Slavic history and folktales, particularly that of Baba Yaga. The main character of Enchantment is Ivan, a young college student who while visiting the Ukraine to do research discovers a sleeping princess in a forest clearing, frozen in time. Ivan manages to free the princess, but finds himself catapulted back a thousand years to her village, where in order to save Katerina’s kingdom he must become her betrothed. Only, he’s already engaged back in his own time. And he finds that in spite of the extensive research he’s done on Slavic culture, living in Katerina’s world requires him to rework a lot of assumptions. Further along in the story Ivan and his princess wind up in the present day, where she in turn has to adjust to some serious culture shock. Through it all they struggle to make sense of their relationship and battle the persecution of the witch Baba Yaga.
Years ago when I first read this story I found it captivating. I liked reading about how the assumptions Ivan and Katerina made about each other’s worlds were continually challenged. I even enjoyed the constant arguments the characters had about language, and the examination of gender roles. The mixture of magic and fantastical events with practical thinking and a modern setting also intrigued me (perhaps more so than in Magic Street). But the second time I tried to read this book it really fell flat for me. The characters felt really one-dimensional. The constant bickering between Ivan and Katerina got on my nerves, and the tangents from the storyline lost me before I made it through fifty pages. It’s also got quite a bit of violence, which I didn’t enjoy reading about. Even today, when I picked up a copy from the library to remind myself more of this book, I wasn’t able to read it again. But it was pretty entertaining the first time around.