Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga

The larger-than-life witch from Slavic folklore leaps from the page in Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga. Edited by Lindy Ryan (Throw Me to the Wolves, with Christopher Brooks), a champion of women's voices in horror, this is a sharply imaginative, diverse anthology of dark fantasy and horror stories. Iron-toothed Baba Yaga famously lives in a hut on fowl's legs "on the borders of places." She may be kind or vile--it depends on the needs of the storyteller--and this collection reflects her shifting nature. She calls to stifled women until they realize "all we ever really needed was to be wild" in "Last Tour into the Hungering Moonlight" by Gwendolyn Kiste. She lures a rejected princess into a terrible freedom in Sara Tantlinger's "Of Moonlight and Moss." "The Peddler's Promise" by Catherine McCarthy features a village troubled by the disappearance of little boys: they have accepted puzzle boxes from an old peddler woman promising them their heart's desire.

Baba Yaga is, by turns, malice, magic and mother in this lush assortment of smart, twisted folktales. The collection reflects upon different stages of motherhood, the conflict between self and society, and the transformations wrought by the need for justice. Many of the stories have grim themes, but threads of macabre humor also appear, including an appearance by Hansel and Gretel. It also includes an introduction for the uninitiated in which horror author Christina Henry (The Girl in Red) discusses the legendary witch's background. Readers who love to tread the dark and treacherous paths of the human heart will happily lose themselves here. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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