Dear Ms. Gref:
I read that you have a weakness for mythology and folklore retellings, so I thought you might be interested in my YA Russian folktale retelling, THE FALCON SPY, set in Tsarist Russia.
Princess Natasha is not used to the word nyet. So when Lev, a French boy who transforms into a falcon, falls injured into her garden, she ignores her family’s protests and nurses him back to health. They bond over art, Moscow, and the loss of their parents. But rumors fly that Napoleon, who’s just invaded Russia, is using falcons as spies. Natasha is certain that she can trust Lev, but her sister and cousin warn her to stay away from him. Then one of them leaves broken glass in a birdbath and Lev is injured. Believing Natasha betrayed him, he flies away from her manor, vowing never to return.
At odds with her family and desperate to find Lev, Natasha runs away. To leave Moscow, she must dress as a soldier, though a uniform does not conceal her from the infamous witch, Baba Yaga. In order to gain safe passage through the Russian forest, Natasha promises to bring Odile, the witch who turned Lev into a falcon, to Baba Yaga. Capturing Odile is no easy task, and when Natasha finds Lev, he begs her to return home. But if she can’t defeat Odile and release Lev from his curse, it will not just be Odile threatening Natasha and her family, but Baba Yaga herself.
THE FALCON SPY is 72,000 words and was inspired by “The Feather of Finist the Falcon.” It would appeal to fans of the historical fiction of Marissa Doyle (COURTSHIPS AND CURSES) and the Russian-inspired world of SHADOW AND BONE (Leigh Bardugo). I minored in Russian and studied in the Crimea, Ukraine. My work has appeared in Highlights for Children, Calliope, and Learning through History.
Thank you for your time and attention.
THE FALCON SPY
In Russia, a bird in the house means death. And one just landed on my windowsill.
I ran for the window. My poor seamstress trailed behind me, sticking pins in the hem of my gown. The pins scraped my bare legs, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t let that bird in the house. Not with my brother Alexei riding off to face Bonaparte tomorrow.
“Natasha! What are you doing?” Mademoiselle Tourneau hissed through the pins in her teeth.
It was no ordinary bird, but a gray falcon, no bigger than my forearm. Black marks lined its white chest like someone had dabbed it with ink, its head dark like a helmet. It peered at me with eyes almost human in their intensity.
All the more reason to keep it out.
I pulled on the window sash to close it, but it wouldn’t budge.
Mademoiselle waved at me to get back on the stool in the parlor. I ignored her. My gown might rip to shreds for all I cared.
“Go away,” I whispered to the bird.
The falcon dug its yellow talons into the windowsill and scraped up bits of blue paint. Stubborn thing.
Behind me, Father and the governor of Moscow mumbled about the French invasion and the state of the Russian army near our unlit fireplace. The governor blew a puff of smoke from his pipe, and Father coughed. Had they not seen the bird?
“Alexei?” I called.
A crackle of gunfire erupted in the garden.