Reviewed by Tori
“You have probably heard of Baba Yaga-the wicked witch of Russian tales who lived in a log hut that walked about on chicken legs, rode through the forests in a giant mortar steered with a pestle, and ate small small children if they didn’t behave. According to legend, Baba Yaga usually appeared as an ugly crone, although she also wore other faces, and sometimes gave aid to a worthy seeker, if one could pass her tests.
You probably think you know who Baba Yaga is. But you’d be wrong. Because I’m Baba Yaga, and this is my story.”
Barbara Yager aka Baba Yaga has been called to a small farming community to help locate three missing children. Disguised as a herbalist, she travels in a magical Airstream RV with her talking pit bull/dragon protector. Not known for being comfortable with alot of human interaction, Barbara’s investigations lead her to believe that the missing children are part of a much larger picture that involves dark magic. With the handsome town sheriff at her side, Barbara pits her will against human and not so human enemies-determined to protect the town, the children, and her heart.
Deborah Blake’s debut Wickedly Dangerous is the first book in a new series that is based on the Russian fairy tale of Baba Yaga. Blake manipulates this old tale to make Baba Yaga more of a job title and bestowing it on three young women. This trio of “sisters” use their magic to help keep the nature in balance and guard the doorways between the mortal world and the otherworld. Blake offers an interesting mixture of legend and mythology that blends together to produce a story that is at times engaging and fun despite the serious subject matter.
Though blurbed with mystery and suspense elements, this lightweight fantasy tells us early on who the culprit is, choosing to narrow its focus on the reasons behind their actions. Well defined characters, both of the human and paranormal variety, gives plenty of maneuvering for continuing world building and arc development. The story does start out a little slow as Blake sets up the storyline and arc. She introduces key players, their backgrounds, and the logistics of Baba Yaga.
Blake does a wonderful job of intertwining fact with fantasy; reminding us of the dangers of environmental damage and the effects it can have on everyone and everything around us while using supernatural factions to make humans heed and in some aspects pay for their negligence. There are multiple storylines in here that run parallel together, intersecting at certain points to tie it together. We switch between the mundane and the magical as Baba races to stop her nemesis from destroying both worlds.
I enjoyed meeting our protagonists, Baba and Liam McClellan, the town sheriff, and watching the story unfold through them. Though Baba is seen as a young attractive woman, she is actually centuries old and normally avoids extended human interaction. Watching her struggle with her attraction to the sheriff and the exuberance of the town’s residents is humorous. She has an air of delightful bafflement, as though she can’t understand why these people keep trying to talk to her. Liam is your average small town sheriff. Loyal and protective towards his town and it’s residents. He has issues of his own that lends an air of weariness to his general demeanor. The romance is fairly low key, running along side the conflict without becoming an equal partner in the storyline. Their chemistry is plausible and it’s the growth they both experience that is the important result.
The ending is satisfying as the main conflict is solved in an appropriate manner, leaving enough open to ensure we will be visiting this world again soon. I did feel the extended storyline involving the missing children was overreaching and a weak plotline to keep the fae and the town connected on a more personal level.