Monday, January 25, 2016

Wickedly Ever After (Baba Yaga #2.5) by Deborah Blake


We first meet Barbara and Liam in Wickedly Magical.  Barbara is the modern version of the infamous Russian with. In Wickedly Wonderful along with solving a mystery, Barbara fell in love with Liam, a human sheriff.  Now in her eighties, though she looks to be in her late twenties or early thirties, Barbara is tired of a solitary life. and is relieved to have found a husband and a young child to train as her replacement. Barbara now has the family she never knew she wanted and couldn't be any happier.  Having completed a human marriage Barbara knows that for marriage to really work she needs the blessing of the Otherworld Queen because without her approval, Barbara will far outlive her new husband and be forced to watch him grow old and die.  Naturally, nothing can run smoothly in Barbara's life and she finds the shoe on the other foot when she is given three impossible tasks to complete before she can get the Queen's approval.

At it's heart, this Baba Yaga series is essentially a paranormal romance with a few of the trappings of the Baba Yaga mythos interwoven into the plot.  In truth, this sort of makes me sad.  I was completely sold on Wickedly Magical because it's so rare that we get a Baba Yaga story, let alone one updated to fit our modern world.  The fixation on romance however seems to have taken the teeth out of the mythos altogether making it at times unrecognizable.

In all of the books to date, we are told how scary the Otherworld Queen is because she did after all turn a few maidens into swans when they got on her nerves.  The entire court seems to tremble and back away from the Queen for fear.  In Wickedly Ever After however, the teeth are completely removed when the Queen's impossible tasks are easily accomplished because even she has a sweet spot for love. The whole thing is so damn saccharine.  I knew from the moment Baba and Liam were able to capture the sound of the sea that these tasks would be easily accomplished.  I couldn't help but roll my eyes when they got a seashell from the selkies.  Really? It just evidenced such a complete lack of imagination. 

The entire story was just so completely predictable that I felt no tension reading it.  Even the famous Chudo-Yudo, the dragon who hides as a dog, who protects the waters of life and death seemed to lose his teeth.   He's essentially a glorified baby sitter for Barbara and Liam's  ward and has lost all of the snark I so loved about him in Wickedly Wonderful.

Blake tried to give us humor in Babs deadpan responses to everything.  Having been raised in part by a former Baba Yaga in the Otherworld, her absolute truthfulness throws both Liam and Babs for a loop.  There's also Liam's attempt to raise Babs as a human child and then his shock with Barbara's approach to child rearing. Barbara is fully aware that no matter what they do, Babs will always be different because she is a Baba Yaga in training.  All of it just felt so damn forced to me.  

This series continues to be completely erased.  There are no people of colour, no disabled people and no LGBT people.  I know that all of this is typical for a paranormal romance series but that doesn't make it acceptable.  If Blake can turn the hut which stands on chicken legs into a gulfstream and a dragon into a dog, then there's no reason why there cannot be more diversity in this series.

I think  that setting this world in a paranormal romance actually does a great disservice to the Baba Yaga mythos.  Where is the fear of the witch who is supposed to be anything but nice - someone you call as a last resort?  Where is the oddity?  The more of this series I read, the more disappointed I become.