Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
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…. (Goodreads)
I was unfamiliar with the Russian folklore of Baba Yaga until I read Wickedly Dangerous. Baba Yaga is traditionally portrayed as a haggard and ugly old witch who lives on the edge of the forest in a magical house on chicken legs (so that it can move around at will) guarding the forest. She helps or hinders those who seek her assistance, and the seeker does not know which fate will befall them. She sometimes appears as a trio of sisters and is said to eat children.
Wickedly Dangerous takes this fairy tale figure and gives her a modern edge in an interesting, fast paced Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance. Barbara Yager is one of three Baba Yagas who “work” in the United States. She travels under the guise of herbalist and researcher, in a magical Airstream trailer with Chudo Yudo, a small dragon disguised as a very large dog. Chudo guards the elixir, Water of Life and Death, which prolongs Barbara’s already long life. She forgoes her old witch persona in favor of a striking brunette with leather pants, boots, and a motorcycle. She has been doing the work of a Baba Yaga for so long that she hardly remembers what it was like to be only human.
She finds herself called to tiny Clearwater County in upstate New York where several children have gone missing, seemingly having disappeared without a trace. She discovers a distraught community afraid for the missing children and in upheaval over potential fracking and the strange thefts and vandalism in their county. More is going on here than meets the eye, and Barbara is concerned that someone from The Otherworld is behind it all. She hopes that she can find the children without calling much attention to herself, but she immediately peaks the local sheriff Liam McClellan’s interest, both professionally and personally. Liam is really feeling the pressure and is certain he will lose his job if the children are not found soon. It quickly becomes apparent that there is an unauthorized door between the “mundane world” and The Otherworld, and Barbara is charged by her queen to find out who is using the door and magic for his/her own purpose. Could this all be related to the missing children? Maya, who works for Peter Callahan and the fracking company seeking land rites definitely seems to be up to something and is possibly not human. Barbara calls upon her helpers, Mikhail, Gregori, and Alexi for assistance. After her own reputation is damaged when someone sabotages her herbal remedies, she eventually reveals her true identity to Liam, and they work together to set everything back to normal in Clearwater, but only after they face some surprises and difficulties of their own.
I liked Wickedly Dangerous quite a bit and found it to be entertaining and the unique (to me) mythology interesting. Ms. Blake does a fantastic job reinventing Baba Yaga for the twenty-first century and creates in Barbara a strong, independent, well developed character whose faults make her even more endearing. Liam, on the other hand, was likeable if average. I absolutely love Chudo Yudo; he provides comic relief in tense situations. How can you go wrong with a dragon/dog? The county residents and Barbara’s helpers added depth and layers to the story. There was a good mix of supernatural and the real world, and I want to know more about The Otherworld. Maya’s motivation for her misdeeds was also clever. My only quibble is that the ending felt a little rushed, and everything was resolved a little too easily.
I consider Wickedly Dangerous to be more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance, but fans of both genres should find this to be a satisfying read. I will definitely seek out the next installment in the series.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*