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Review “The House with Chicken Legs”

Title: The House with Chicken Legs |Author: Sophie Anderson |Publisher: Usborn Publishing |Genre: Middlegrade Fantasy | 337 pages

I don’t really know anymore how I came to choose this book. It shows up on so many Middlegrade book lists and I guess I just felt like reading something with a new kind of setting.

All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with. But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties–and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.
So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules . . . with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife.

This book has me utterly torn. On the one hand, I loved it. It amazed me, took me for a ride, showed me new things. On the other hand it left me dissatisfied and disgruntled, a little confused. Here is why:

The world Sophie Anderson created had me utterly enchanted. The landscapes, the house, the lore, the stories, the worldbuilding – I loved it all. There was an air of magic and mystery and sacrity over everything, that made the whole book feel very special.

The writing style brought everything close. I felt like I was there, trudging over foggy mountain pathways or sweating in the dry heat in the middle of the desert or feeling the soft salty breeze of the sea on my skin. It was incredibly vivid, without feeling overwhelming. I really have to tip my hat to that level of skill.

The story itself was intriguing. I knew little about Baba Yagas at the time when I started it and even though I have since read up on that topic, I still would love to learn more about their mythology. Following the story of Marinka was something so totally new for me. I just loved exploring more of this world, every second of it.

There is, however, that other thing, that left me sad and confused. That thing was Marinka.

In a way, I didn’t have trouble relating to the main character Marinka at all. Sophie Anderson does such a good job in showing the reader how lonely Marinka feels. Her feelings are so palpable and in a way I was suffering and longing with her. All she wants is a friend, some normalcy when her world is everything else but normal. She doesn’t want that fate of becoming a Yaga and she decides to fight against it.

This, in a way, is very understandable. We are the masters of our own destiny and I think what the author wanted to show young readers is that they have their own autonomy and get to decide their own future. I understand that. I was just not happy about the way the main character went around to get what she wanted.

There was a lot of lying involved and she tended to push away and be mean to the friends and family that she did have. While some of Marinka’s actions were very in-character, so to speak, I still didn’t like how it seems to show young readers that you should chase your dreams no matter the consequences for anybody else and with no regards for the feelings of others. There were also other parts of the story I didn’t quite agree to and at the end of it, I just felt dissatisfied. The whole thing just rubbed me kinda wrong.

All in all though, I was impressed by the writing and world-building and the idea of the overall story. While I was not happy with some of the main character’s actions, I still think that the book was very well thought through and I loved discovering new things. I’m sure that the book will appeal to a lot of readers and I would definitely recommend to give it a try.

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