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Toby Barlow

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Corvus

Published : 2014

Copyright : Toby Barlow 2013

ISBN-10 : PB 1-78239-333-1
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-78239-333-7

Publisher's Write-Up

From the author of Sharp Teeth, comes a novel of post-war Paris, of star-crossed love and Cold War espionage, of bloodthirsty witches and a police inspector turned into a flea...and that's just the beginning. But while Toby Barlow's Babayaga may start as just a joyful love-letter to the City of Light, it quickly grows into a daring, moving exploration of love, mortality, and responsibility.

Will is a young American ad executive in Paris. Except his agency is a front for the CIA. It’s 1959 and the cold war is going strong. But Will doesn’t think he’s a warrior - he’s just a good-hearted Detroit ad guy who can’t seem to figure out Parisian girls.

Zoya is a beautiful young woman wandering les boulevards, sad-eyed, coming off a bad break-up. In fact, she impaled her ex on a spike. Zoya, it turns out, has been a beautiful young woman for hundreds of years; she and her far more traditionally witchy-looking companion, Elga, have been thriving unnoticed in the bloody froth of Europe’s wars.

Inspector Vidot is a hardworking Paris police detective who cherishes quiet nights at home. But when he follows a lead from a grisly murder to the abode of an ugly old woman, he finds himself turned into a flea.

Oliver is a patrician, fun-loving American who has come to Paris to start a literary journal with the help of friends in D.C. who ask a few favours in return. He’s in well over his head, but it’s nothing that a cocktail can’t fix. Right?

Add a few chance encounters, a chorus of some more angry witches, a strung-out jazzman or two, a weaponised LSD program, and a cache of rifles buried in the Bois de Bologne - and that’s a novel! But while Toby Barlow’s Babayaga may start as just a joyful romp though the City of Light, it quickly grows into a daring, moving exploration of love, mortality, and responsibility.

About the Author:
Toby Barlow is a writer who lives in downtown Detroit.

'Tolkien meets Graham Greene meets Anne Rice in this wild, surrealistic caper.'

New York Magazine

'Toby Barlow is a warlock. Babayaga is his potion. Drink up.'

Robin Sloan
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nigel (020314) Rating (9/10)

Review by Nigel
Rating 9/10
One of the endorsements for Babayaga is “…surrealistic caper” and if you had to pick a word to describe the story that would be the one. It is not surreal in the mind bending, weird, inaccessible, what the hell is going on kind of way but more take a leap of faith and enjoy the ride kind of way... and what a ride!

If I had to explain to someone what Babayaga is about I would probably say witches. The story follows Zoya, a beautiful young woman who is also a very old witch, and her latest victim Will Van Wyck. Will works for an American advertising agency in Paris but also works for another more clandestine agency, the CIA.

While the witches originally followed the ever warring armies, living off the chaos and carnage of the battlefields, in the 20th Century things aren’t as easy. Zoya finds in these more modern times that seducing a gullible rich man and becoming his mistress is a much easier, and a lot less gory, way of making ends meet. The story starts with Zoya disposing of her last victim in a fairly gruesome way that goes ever so slightly wrong and draws the wrong kind of attention.

Wanted by the Police and alienating her elder witch mentor Elga, Zoya finds events spiralling out of control. Bring to the mix a rat that used to be a priest, a flea that used to be a Detective, various spies and spooks, as well as the ghosts of witches past and you perhaps start to understand the use of surreal to describe the story.

I enjoyed Babayaga immensely, the writing style reminding me of Christopher Moore, another writer I greatly enjoy and to whom the word surreal would equally apply. I particularly enjoyed the back story of Detective Charles Vidot, turned in to a flea by Elga, yet still pursuing the case and learning a lot about himself in the process... a person whom exemplifies a ‘positive mental attitude’ and makes most optimists borderline suicidal by comparison. If you like your stories grounded completely in reality then Babayaga won’t be for you. If you like very well written escapist fun that is recklessly dark and funny you well love Babayaga.
Nigel (2nd March 2014)

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