A dark, compelling Russian fantasy with obvious comparisons to Harry Potter or The Magicians except it takes its own gritty approach to this territory. Sasha and her classmates are chosen, willing or not, to attend the Institute of Special Technologies and failure has it own dire consequences for their friends and family. I found myself drawn in by the original magic system; leave your wands and your reality at home.
“One part coming-of-age parable and one part psychological horror, this book combines dark fantasy with contemporary magical realism, and I can’t stop thinking about the resulting magnificence weeks after finishing it. Beautifully translated from its original Russian, Vita Nostra brilliantly explores the period in early adulthood where we consider the price we’re willing to pay to discover our full potential, and how we make ourselves vulnerable when we strive for outside approval.”
— Ilana Darrant, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
“Vita Nostra” — a cross between Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” and Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” [...] is the anti-Harry Potter you didn’t know you wanted.” -- The Washington Post
“Vita Nostra has become a powerful influence on my own writing. It’s a book that has the potential to become a modern classic of its genre, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it get the global audience in English it so richly deserves.” -- Lev Grossman
Best Books of November 2018 -- Paste Magazine
The definitive English language translation of the internationally acclaimed Russian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.
Our life is brief . . .
Sasha Samokhina has been accepted to the Institute of Special Technologies.
Or, more precisely, she’s been chosen.
Situated in a tiny village, she finds the students are bizarre, and the curriculum even more so. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, it is their families that pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.
A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.
About the Author
Marina And Sergey Dyachenko, a former actress and a former psychiatrist, are the coauthors of twenty-eight novels and numerous short stories and screenplays. They were born in Ukraine, lived in Russia, and now live in the United States. Their books have been translated into several foreign languages and awarded multiple literary and film prizes, including the 2005 Eurocon award for Best Author. They live in Marina Del Rey, California.
“Vita Nostra” — a cross between Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” and Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” [...] is the anti-Harry Potter you didn’t know you wanted.” — Washington Post
“Amazing book. Dark Harry Potter on steroids with a hefty dose of metaphysics.” — Aliette de Bodard, award-winning author of The Tea Master and the Detective
“Vita Nostra has become a powerful influence on my own writing. It’s a book that has the potential to become a modern classic of its genre, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it get the global audience in English it so richly deserves.” — Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians
“Vita Nostra is utterly fascinating. It’s like a drug; the more you read, the more you have to read. A unique premise, mind-blowing magic system, and spellbinding conclusion makes this one of the best reads of the year.” — Charlie Holmberg, bestselling author of The Paper Magician
“Vita Nostra takes the trope of young people selected for a school for magic and transforms it into an unnerving, deeply philosophical coming-of-age tale. [...] Hersey’s translation is plain and straightforward, a wise choice that enhances the deep strangeness of this trippy, vivid novel.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This dark, ambitious, and intellectually strenuous novel will feel like a fresh revelation to fantasy readers glutted with Western wish-fulfillment narratives.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Imagine that Hogwarts has opened a satellite campus inside Harry Haller’s Magic Theater from Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, and assigned Kafka, Dostoevsky and Rod Serling to oversee the curriculum.” — BookPage
“Vita Nostra reminds us that language and knowledge are the greatest powers, and it’s through the word that we’ve shaped everything around us.” — Paste Magazine (Best Books of November 2018)
“Vita Nostra is a dark, enthralling fantasy quite unlike any other. . . . One part coming of age tale, one part contemporary magic school, and a sizable part dark reality, Vita Nostra is a beautiful, aching, nearly debilitating fantasy that bruises, and thrills, the heart.” — New York Journal of Books
“Dark and foreboding, this fantasy, translated from Russian, is more of philosophical treatise on growing up and the nature of reality than an adventure tale. Readers willing to challenge themselves and slowly digest this deep book will enjoy it immensely.” — Booklist
“The Dyachenkos have produced a remarkable novel and one that will linger long afterward in the reader’s thoughts.” — PopMatters
“Vita Nostra is the purest version of the magical academy fantasy setting.” — Manhattan Book Review
“This goes magnificently into an adult direction that will blow the reader’s mind. It twists and turns between wonders and horrors, taking a reader on a magical, psychological trip that won’t be forgotten.” — Scifi Pulse
“It is a thought-provoking, twisting tale that has highs and lows, unlike anything that most U.S. readers will have experienced. It is brilliant and well worth the time.” — SFRevu