The Sea King’s Daughter: A Russian Legend by Aaron Shepard

Received from NetGalley for review.

The Sea King’s Daughter is a Russian legend that tells the story of Sadko, a poor musician who is unable to find a wife due to his lack of wealth. One night he plays by a river and is visited by the Sea King, who invites him to play at his underground palace, but will he be able to get there and how will he return? Will he even want to return when he sees the King’s daughters?

This was a wonderful reading experience. The story is only short – around thirty pages – but Aaron Shepard’s narration is lovely, and, although simple, it is undeniably effective – I don’t want anything overly complicated or flowery when it comes to fairy tale retellings, I just want to be told the story and to soak up another culture and that is exactly what happened when I was reading this. Whilst reading Shepard’s word I was immediately returned to my childhood and filled with nostalgia – it reminded me of sitting and reading my children’s Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales for hours when I was younger. Shepard also includes information about the Russian culture of preserving ancient stories and legends – in epic ballads known as byliny – which I always find fascinating to read about; not only did I learn a new legend, I learnt something new about the tradition of storytelling.

The illustrations by Gennady Spirin are gorgeous and truly evoked the feel of Russian splendour and myth for me – I was completely transported by the subtle designs and gentle colours, especially as the illustrations reminded me of medieval tapestries and whimsical renaissance paintings, all gentle lines and plump revellers. The underwater scenes were particularly beautiful – there is a real sense of magic when looking at the pictures and I know they will appeal to young and old alike.

I’ll admit it was ‘A Russian Legend’ that initially drew me to this book (I have a minor fascination with all things Russia), but I very much enjoyed the story in itself – it was skilfully told and I love that I learnt something new. Russia, mythology, fairy tales, and mermaids – you can’t go wrong, in my opinion, and I imagine many others will agree.

Read: October 7th 2016

4/5 stars


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