In Egg and Spoon, Gregory Maguire takes a classic tail of mistaken identity and weaves it together with Russian folklore in interesting and unexpected ways. At the center of the story are two young women: a city girl borne of privilege and a country girl suffocating under the weight of poverty and loss. Their paths crisscross and collide as they make their ways through this tale.
Maguire gives us several strong female characters throughout this book. Not only do we get two female leads, but we also get a menagerie of interesting women who guide them along their respective paths. Unfortunately, the two leads, while charming and interesting, are rarely ever proactive. They are both pushed and pulled through the story and show little initiative.
Meanwhile, Baba Yaga, an old witch written as a secondary character, tends to take over the story and guide the plot more than anyone else. She’s charming and intriguing, and it seems Maguire has much more affection for her than his leads. Her arc is poignant and ultimately satisfying: it feels like this story really wants to be about her.
While the story has moments of brilliance and some edge-of-your-seat excitement, the plot is a bit muddled and drags through the middle. There are a lot of missed opportunities to develop the two young women, to show them taking control of their lives, and to earn the connections they later have with the ancillary characters. The book cheats a little in this regard, as these characters grow in ways both expected and unexpected, but they never really earn it.
Despite its flaws, Egg and Spoon is worth reading. It provides an intriguing introduction to Russian folklore that could spark a reader’s interest in other stories. It may, however, lack enough excitement to keep younger readers interested.
Disclaimer: I received this book free in exchange for an honest review through the Amazon Vine program.