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Set in the city of Novgorod long ago, the story tells of the poor musician Sadko, whose fortunes change when he is called to play at the Sea King's palace. Adventure, romance -- and a heartbreaking decision -- await the musician when he encounters the Sea King's beautiful daughter.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Gennady Spirin’s illustrations highlight this retelling of the Sadko legend by Aaron Sheperd. Sadko, a musician, is invited by the Sea-King to play in his palace beneath the waves. The Sea-King is so taken with Sadko’s playing that he tries to marry him off to one of his daughters, the River Volkhova, in order to keep him beneath the sea forever. But Sadko loves Novgorod, the city beside the Volkhov where he lives, and wants to return there. As with many Russian folktales, this is not quite a happily-ever-after story, though it’s only slightly melancholic.
Sheperd’s prose has just enough of an archaic flavor for a classic fairytale, while still remaining approachable. Spirin’s sumptuous paintings are reminiscent of Russian lacquer-ware with their depth, delicate detail, and rich color; they seem almost to glow on the page. The Sea King’s Daughter would be a wonderful introduction to Russian folktales for any child. As for adults, opera-lovers will enjoy it for its similarities to Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Sadko, based on the same legend, while picture-book afficionados will go into raptures over Spirin’s art.