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“Endurance, after all, was a kind of victory; a kind of heroism, too.” —Enchantment
by Orson Scott Card
AR Test, Teaches About Culture
As a child, Ivan stumbled across a slumbering princess in a forest clearing. Terrified by the beast that guarded her, he fled. But years later he is compelled to return by the need to determine if his princess was a childhood fantasy. Unfortunately for him, she was not.
Ivan is thrown into a world a thousand years in the past. Despite the fact that he is already engaged to a simple American girl, Ivan discovers that he is expected to marry the princess. If he fails to do so, the kingdom will become forfeit to the evil witch, Baba Yaga. However, Ivan must prove to himself and to the kingdom’s subjects that he truly is worthy of their princess.
Filled with culture, magic, and an interesting look into how modern people would fare in ancient times, Enchantment is a joy to read. However, some adult themes make this novel appropriate for a more mature audience than Card’s most famous book, Ender’s Game. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing story that will draw you in for an enjoyable tale.
- When Katerina meets Ivan and knows they are destined to get married, she thinks, “And in the marriage bed, wouldn’t he lie more lightly upon her than any of the hulking knights who had looked at her with covert desire?”
- When the king meets Ivan, the king makes, “a reference to the presumed consummation of their marriage.”
- Baba Yaga thinks about her husband, who is also a god. “He was the only male she’d ever slept with that she couldn’t kill no matter how much she sometimes wanted to.”
- Baba Yaga tells a bear that if he betrays her with another woman, “your balls fall off.” She then tells him to, “Stick to swans and heifers or whatever it was that Zeus had a taste for. Or she-bears. But as far as humans go, you’re mine.”
- When Ivan and Katerina are married, Ivan thinks that he had hoped to marry out of love. When he thinks of his marriage night he is concerned. “To bed a woman who was only doing it because her people were being held hostage. How is this going to be distinguishable from rape?” In a book that Ivan had tried to read, the author “had written that ‘all women love semi-rape . . . But the idea seemed so loathsome to him that even if it were true, he did not want to know it . . . To sleep with an unwilling woman—Ivan was not even sure he would be able to perform.”
- At the wedding, Ivan is unsure what to make of the guest’s behavior. “The crude comments about how he was going to keep the princess turning on the spit longer than a suckling pig gave him a new appreciation for the Jewish ban on pork. And the children who asked if they could come play in the tent that his erection would make of the bedcovers left him speechless.”
- When Ivan’s fiancé finds out that he married Katrina, she is upset. One of the reasons she is upset is because she and Ivan never had sex and people teased her saying he was gay or had a childhood injury. “They kept thinking up some new malady to explain his lack of sexual drive. ‘He has elephantiasis of the testicles’—that was a favorite—‘his balls weigh thirty pounds each.’”
- When Ivan and Katerina consummate their marriage, the act is not described in detail, but Katerina thinks about what she had been told. The advice is told over a page and includes, “Most of them spoke of the casual brutality of men, like dogs that mounted bitches, boars on sows. It will hurt. . . One took her aside warned her not to cry out in pain—some men will think it should always be like that, they’ll come back for more of your pain instead of for your love . . . If you don’t make him welcome, he’ll find someone else who will. Other told her to be grateful when he found someone else, because then he’d only bother her when it was time to make babies.”
- Baba Yaga used magic to turn her husband into a bear. “Yaga found her husband tearing at a human thigh. It was disgusting, the way he let blood drool onto his fur, making a mess of everything. One the other hand, the ligaments and tendons and veins stretched and popped in interesting ways.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Profanity is used rarely throughout the book, including bitch, damn, and shit.
- Katerina tells Ivan, “Not everyone is as tall as you. . . I don’t imagine you could even lie down straight in a regular house. Not without sticking your head out the door and your ass in the fire.”
- The king calls the witch a “great bitch.”
- Shit is used several times. One example is when the bear tells Baba Yaga that when he kills men, he doesn’t need a sword, “I roar at them and they shit themselves and run stinking into the woods.”
- Ivan thinks he wasn’t worthy of Katerina and that, “the only men who tried to date such women were the arrogant assholes who thought every woman wanted them to drop trou and let the poor bitch have a glimpse of Dr. Love.”
- Time travel, magic, witches, and old Russian gods are integral parts of the storyline.
- Baba Yaga is an evil witch who uses magic and spells to try to gain a kingdom.
- Mikola Mozhaiski is the bear god. Some people thought Mikola Mozhaiski kept Baba Yaga in check.
- A magical bear, who is a god, was watching over Katerina as she slept.
- Katerina is a Christian. She believes in Mikola Mozhasiski and the Holy trinity. “. . . unlike God, you couldn’t pray to Mikola Mozhaiski, you couldn’t curry favor with him, he asked of you neither baptism nor mass.”
- Ivan is a Jew who practices his religion. When Katerina first meets him she wonders why a wolf hasn’t sent him on to heaven. Then she thinks, “Well, not heaven. He was a Jew.”
- Katerina’s father would like her to choose another husband, even if it means they will have to fight to keep the kingdom. Katerina said, “Father, I am a Christian . . . But the armies of Rome have been defeated many times since they converted to Christianity. Maybe when God has some great purpose, like converting an empire, he gives victory to is follows. But Christians can die.”
- Katerina prays. “And in that moment, she had prayed, O Mikola, O Tetka Tila, O Lord Jesus, O Holy Mother. . . then she realized that she had prayed to Jesus third, not first, and when she spoke to the Holy Mother, it was not so much the Blessed Virgin as her own dead mother to whom she prayed. No doubt this was damnation, and she sank down into sleep, into despair.”
- Baba Yaga asked the bear to kill someone and she reminds him that he is immortal. Baba Yaga mocks him saying, “You’ve lost faith in yourself. Isn’t that rich? A good who has become a self-atheist!”
- When Baba Yaga told bear he should have remained a weather god, he said, “Weather god was never my option. This people didn’t need a sky god. They needed a god to keep winter under control. Like any good king, we respond to the needs of the people. We become what they need us to be.”
- One of the characters, Dimitri, has a dream and thinks the Winter Bear has determined that he should marry the princess. Even though the priest has forbidden him to perform the old rites, Dimitri still performs them because the “Christian God had not replaced the old gods. Father Lukas was full of lies. And the Winter Bear was full of promises.”