The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore – Blog Tour Review

Title: The Witch and the Tsar

Author: Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 8th December 2022

Rating: 4/5



Yaga lives deep in the Russian forest, tending to any that call upon her for her healing potions and vast wisdom.

She has been alone for centuries, with only her beloved animals for company. But, when Tsaritsa Anastasia, wife of Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich, shows up at Yaga’s cottage on the brink of death, Yaga is compelled to travel with her to Moscow to keep her safe.

However, the Russia Yaga sees as she makes her journey to the heart of the country is one on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan – soon to become Ivan the Terrible – grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

Set in sixteenth-century Russia, The Witch and the Tsar upends the stories we know of Baba Yaga as the bony-legged witch of Slavic fairy tales and the stuff of nightmares. For beyond the rumours of her iron nose, fangs for teeth, and house on chicken legs, is the story of a woman so wise and strong that she has to be cloaked in lies to hide her true power.


I have always been deeply fascinated by Russian history and I love folklore and mythology so The Witch and the Tsar really appealed to me. Happily, I can confirm it lived up to its promise and I very much enjoyed it. It is a quite different, more feminist take on Baba Yaga, the famously ferocious witch from Slavic folklore who is often portrayed as a terrifying looking old crone. Here, she is something quite different and I loved the author’s intentions in creating a less stereotypical, more empathetic, Yaga.

The Witch and the Tsar is a blend of the historical and the supernatural, which can be tricky to pull off. However, the rich and vivid writing mixed with a mesmerising and enthralling atmosphere makes this a truly enchanting read. There is also an excellent and informative author’s note and a glossary at the end which is hugely worth reading. Imaginative, exciting and compelling, I think fans of historical fantasy and retellings will love The Witch and the Tsar.


Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this tour and organising it. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.

Buy the book:

Waterstones | Blackwell’s | Amazon

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