Egg and Spoon

Written by Gregory Maguire
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Set in the last years of the Russian monarchy, Egg and Spoon is a fanciful mix of history, folklore, philosophy, childhood fantasy, silliness, and very clever writing.

In a rural village, peasant Elena cares for her sick mother while mourning the loss of her dead father; her two brothers who have been pressed into service. Cat (born Ekaterina), a wealthy Russian girl, leaves her London boarding school to go to St. Petersburg where she will meet the godson of the Tsar. Cat’s train must wait for repairs near Elena’s village, and the two girls meet. When Cat shows Elena a Faberge egg intended as a gift for the Tsar, an accident happens that causes the girls to trade places, setting them on a string of unlikely adventures, and eventually on a quest to save the firebird, Russia, and the entire world. The story includes a vast array of incredible characters, including Baba Yaga, the witch from Russian folktale; Anton, the tsar’s godson; a magical cat named Mewster; and our insightful narrator, an imprisoned monk who, like Scheherazade, tells this story in parts, in the hope of saving his life.

By turns ridiculously silly and deeply profound, Egg and Spoon is an utter delight. Elena and Cat perform magnificently, both as examples of social class and as individual personalities. The two wend their way through a magical, bizarre, and funny Russian wonderland. In the end, Maguire drops a serious message in a light-hearted manner: saving the world is something everyone can do, and it isn’t as hard as it might seem. Highly recommended.