Joint Review – Wickedly Dangerous (Baba Yaga #1) by Deborah Blake

Wickedly Dangerous cover image

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: 2 Sep
How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…
This blurb came from Goodreads.

Has: The premise for Wickedly Dangerous was very intriguing and I liked that the focus was surrounding the mythos of Baba Yaga who is a fantastic and scary character in mythology for me. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked how the mythology was constructed which was imaginative and a lovely quirky tone that came alive.

Barbara Yager, is one of the three Baba Yaga witches working in the North American continents, when she is called Clearwater county to help uncover the mystery of three missing children and an unbalance with nature and the Otherworld. Liam McClennan who is is the sheriff of the county who is also investigating the disappearances encounters Barbara and despite his initial suspicions of her strange dog, teams up with the witch when he realises that he may need magical hand.

E: From a very young age I have had a weakness for fairytales, myths, and legends. Some of my early book victories included discovering fairytales that existed outside of the Grimm Brothers or The (pick your primary or secondary color) Fairy Books by Andrew Lang. When I realized not only did stories exist outside of my Western-North American viewpoint but collections existed specifically for those from different cultures I was ecstatic. Along the way I found it fascinating to learn how many cultures had common themes expressed in these tales, yet even though I knew the probable ending, they had enough of a twist I enjoyed reading each version. So when I saw this blurb containing Baba Yaga, Russian fairy tale figure, and a dragon I had to request a copy.

While I loved the premise of this story it took a while for things to get going and for the characters to start exhibiting some depth. Liam seemed an overworked worn-down Sheriff who really should have considered moving and starting someplace else. However, he had deep seated ties to the area and its people so regardless of the personal cost he stuck around. The recent troubles between “Big Oil” vs the locals added to the disappearance of local children despite his best efforts and Liam seemed to be losing the uphill battle he was fighting. Barbara on the other hand showed up out of the middle of nowhere without any ties and while maintaining her mystique rather quickly became known as an herbalist. Then she discovered things were not as they seemed in the sleepy town and the besieged Sheriff just might be her best ally.

Has: I definitely agree, I loved the quirky and zany tone with Barbara’s dog, Chudo Yudo and her Airstream trailer which has a life of its own to the side characters from the Otherworld. Deborah Blake created a rich and imaginative world with a good set up with the romance, which has a slight slow burn that develops over the course of the book.

The subplot with the environmental impact of fracking in the county was interesting on how that tied up with the Otherworld and the repercussions that brought on both worlds. Liam and Barbara were a great team, once their initial mistrust melted between them, and I liked the tentative attraction that starts to evolve around them.

E: I enjoyed watching Barbara and Liam try to figure each other out but it seemed like they danced around the truth for a good third to almost half of the book slowing the pace of both the romance and the suspense/mystery down. Barbara knew who the villain was rather early on and I got a bit impatient with how long it took for the actual confrontation. However, once she received her additional commission from the Queen of the Otherworld the problem became a bit more complicated. Speaking of the Queen, I LOVED the paranormal secondary characters. The Queen and various manifestations of her temper, the King who tried to smooth things over, the Dog/Dragon, and Barbara’s other dragon allies. I wouldn’t mind at all if Blake expanded this world and one or more of those characters received their own story. Yes, I have a thing for dragons… and?

Has: I had similar frustrations with the pace as well especially when it took awhile for the plot to go forward surrounding the villain. I also wished there was a bit more on the romance as that seemed to heat up very quickly and would have liked more development because the mystery overshadowed it in some places.

However, I adored the other characters especially those who inhabit the Otherworld including the Queen who was just fabulous! There is a wonderful scene where she literally breaks a moon which had me giggling with the impact this had on her court. I definitely agree and would love to see more of this world because I found it vibrant and colourful and it had a lovely quirky charm.

E: Blake provided a lot of twists and turns in her retelling of Baba Yaga, at least Barbara’s piece of the Baba Yaga story. Her villain was truly villainous and yet I felt some pity because of what originally seemed to twist the individual. However, the individual’s actions and those who paid the price for standing in her way quickly overruled my softer side. I have my doubts the punishment meted out will end anytime soon. I really felt for both Liam and Barbara as they had to face an individual who was able to target the areas which would hurt them the most personally and launch successful attacks. It seemed as if they underestimated the villain at every turn and it took the intervention from an unexpected corner to provide the last bit of help. I was satisfied with the compromise required to address each facet of the problem created by the villain and the damage done to individuals on earth and in the Otherworld.

Has: I actually didn’t like the villain and also felt she was the weakest aspect of the book, and that was due to the way she was written and interacted around other characters. I really could not believe people could fall the villain’s act and it felt forced even though magic was used it just felt off and forced and she was pretty much a one dimensional character for me. Although she managed to cause a lot of mayhem and damage. I wished she was just better written because the repercussions had a long term devastation and a consequence which Liam and Barbara take responsibility which was a plot-point that was a bit too contrived for me.

E: Overall, I enjoyed the world Blake created and its variety of characters. I was rather disappointed in how long it took for the story to start moving and for Liam to show who he was but once things were established I found myself unable to stop reading. I just had to reach that point. I enjoyed finding the “truth” behind the legend of Baba Yaga and how inhuman they became over the years. I did find it fascinating Barbara found the little town to her liking after she had to deal with an almost stoning and burning, but I think the welcome she received initially and the knowledge that their hatred was caused by an opposing spell not to mention Liam’s ties to the area probably helped. I will be continuing this series because I think the pace in future books will pick up now the world is mostly established.

I give Wickedly Dangerous a B-

Has: I agree the first half does take awhile to get going, but this is the first book to introduce the world which was full of humour and rich imagination. I liked Barbara who was a well fleshed out heroine and she was very vivid as a character. I did wish Liam was a bit more developed but I think because Barbara was such a strong character it may be hard to overshadow her. All in all, this was a wonderful and quirky fantasy romance that had a refreshing take on the mythos of the Baba Yaga myth. While I would have liked more on the romance stakes and a better villain this is a great start to the series.

I give Wickedly Dangerous a C+

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2 thoughts on “Joint Review – Wickedly Dangerous (Baba Yaga #1) by Deborah Blake”

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