In the tradition of modern fairy tales like Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver comes an immersive fantasy saga, a debut novel about estranged siblings who are reunited after receiving a mysterious inheritance.
“A wonderfully imaginative, wholly enchanting novel of witness, survival, memory, and family that reads like a fairy tale godfathered by Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton in a wild America alive with wonders and devils alike. Thistlefoot shimmers with magic and mayhem and a thrilling emotional momentum.” —Libba Bray, bestselling author of The Diviners
The Yaga siblings—Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist—have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive an inheritance, the siblings agree to meet—only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs.
Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home outside Kyiv—but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide—erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.
An enchanted adventure illuminated by Jewish myth and adorned with lyrical prose as tantalizing and sweet as briar berries, Thistlefoot is a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore: a powerful and poignant exploration of healing from multi-generational trauma told by a bold new talent.
Nethercott's dark, difficult debut offers a heartbreaking reinterpretation of the myth of Baba Yaga. Isaac Yaga and his younger sister, Bellatine, are the "youngest living direct descendants" of Baba Yaga. They've been estranged since Isaac ran away from home at 17, but cautiously reconcile six years later when they inherit Baba Yaga's famous chicken-legged hut. Woodworker Bellatine, who can bring inanimate objects to life, loves the house on sight, so actor/shape-shifter Isaac offers her a deal: they'll tour the U.S. performing puppet shows and, at the end, all the proceeds will be his but the house will be hers. However, the mysterious Longshadow Man has been stalking the hut since 1919 and seeks to destroy it—and the Yagas—once and for all. Told largely by Isaac, Bellatine, and—fascinatingly—the hut itself, Nethercott's ambitious attempt to write the next American Gods falters in its handling of evil. The characters themselves point out that the villain talks like a Nazi from an Indiana Jones movie, which cheapens the examination of racism and mob mentality—especially in the context of depictions of horrific antisemtism witnessed by the house (including a graphic infant murder in a Russian pogrom). Still, fans of thorny, contemporary retellings of folklore will appreciate Nethercott's take on the theme of inherited trauma.)