Book Reviews

Zolushka: Midwinter Nights

She died a victim of the Black Death and only love, or her idea of it will give her back the life she lost. If she can do it within three nights of her existence.

If you’ve read my review of Wolf Prince of Kstovo (if you haven’t, fear not; I have a link for you; and while you’re reading reviews of the author’s works, you can click here to see my thoughts about his novel, Ash), you’ll know I was excited to jump into the other book in Mark Jonathan Runte’s (credited here as simply Mark Runte) Midwinter Nights duology, Zolushka. Once again, this is a mere eighteen pages on Kindle (at the time of writing, there’s no paperback edition), providing a short read. And once again it’s absolutely fantastic. Given the book’s length, there’s only so much I can say about it, so much like the other book in this duology, this review is shorter than normal.

Like Wolf Prince of Kstovo, Zolushka is set in Russia, predominantly in the 1800s (this one begins in the 1300s), and evokes the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Given its brevity, it’s the perfect length to read within a single sitting, and indeed, reading the duology back-to-back in a single sitting is a worthwhile experience. Through these pages, Runte tells a story about the titular Zolushka, existing centuries after her birth. To delve deeper into the story would risk spoiling it, and although the blurb (which I included above) provides the explanation about her continued existence, Zolushka is a story best experienced without much detail about the story.

From the outset, Zolushka is tinged with sadness. While I hadn’t read the blurb and wasn’t immediately aware of the protagonist’s journey, the story’s opening is immediately emotional while drawing the reader in. As the story progresses, the sadness soon gives way to love and hope. Before long, the story evokes emotions from both extremes, sometimes oscillating between them; other times, evoking both together.

While the Brothers Grimm’s fables are an obvious influence on the Midwinter Nights books, Zolushka isn’t beholden to them. The story’s presentation is more modern, while its mythology and its stylings feel as though they would be happy in a Japanese folk tale. Rather than feeling disparate, both of these elements work in the story’s favour, bringing it together in a beautiful whole. The prose and dialogue feel as though they belong in the Brothers Grimm’s works, and share a timeless quality with them. The modern touch and mythology add texture that deepens the experience.

If you haven’t yet read my review of Wolf Prince of Kstovo (I included the link above, so check it out), I’ll again highlight that while it and Zolushka are both part of the Midwinter Nights duology, these books are standalone experiences. Although the covers don’t mention it, if you see the series title in the books while browsing Amazon, you don’t need to read them both. Only reading one would mean you only read one fantastic story, however, so I would certainly recommend grabbing them both.

I’ll repeat another statement from my previous review, and that is that I sincerely hope Runte continues these Midwinter Nights stories. Both stories are spectacular. I jumped from writing that review to reading Zolushka, and am incredibly pleased that I did. At times sad, at times beautiful, and often both at the same time, Zolushka is a bittersweet fable. It may be brief, but it is a work of utter beauty. If you’re a fan of fables and folklore, you’ll discover that Zolushka is a wonderful addition to the genre.

Favourite Passage

She couldn’t read her own name, even if it had been carved on a stone and placed to mark the site of a plague pit. That didn’t make it any less home to her. Her bones were laying there, tangled amid the remains of a monk, a whore and two children. The cat lay next to the whore’s hand, skull bashed in with a stone and an iron peg through its ribs. Of the ones she could name, they were the only ones who hadn’t reawakened to an echo of life. The cat head, much to her fear. In life, it had been black and a devil’s creature.

Zolushka: Midwinter Nights

Zolushka: Midwinter Nights was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

Zolushka is available on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon. A paperback version will be released in the near future.

Note: I do not post scores for reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

You can follow Mark Jonathan Runte online, via:

Interested in purchasing Zolushka?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

Zolushka : Midwinter Nights

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: