Book reviews, Russian books

REVIEW: Max Frei, “Old Vilnius’ Tales”, Vol.5

Old Vilnius’ Tales, Vol.5
by Max Frei


Original name:
Сказки старого Вильнюса V
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Livelib | Goodreads
Published: 2016
Format: Ebook

Synopsis: There’s always something going on in the Old Town of Vilnius. Here, magical hats fall down on the heads of sad passer-bys, mermaids argue with werewolves, dreams constantly throw fun parties, ghosts start scamming with real estates, cats sometime tranform into fiery serpents, coffee shops serve cakes with thunders, and the number of streets keeps changing – when we started telling you these stories, there were only 108, now they’re at least two dozen more.
Which means, a sixth volume is needed.


Max Frei is a pen name of Svetlana Martynchik, Ukranian fantasy author. She’s mostly famous for comic fantasy book series about sir Max (Labyrinths of Echo, Chronicles of Echo, and Dreams of Echo). Previously the pen name was used by one more author that is her spouse, Igor Steopin, but recent releases were mainly written by Svetlana alone.

Svetlana currently lives in Vilnius, Lithuania, while holding Ukranian citizenship.


After moving from the megapolis to Vilnius, Svetlana wrote a magic realist book series named “Old Vilnius’ Tales”. As of 2016, the series consist of 5 volumes, each of them containing short stories about every single one of initially 108, now two dozens more, streets of Vilnius’ Old Town. Max Frei already had a book written in similar way, called “The Big Dipper”, with the concept of applying The Big Dipper constellation map onto Europe’s, traveling to the cities matched with the biggest stars of the constellation, and writing stories about them. Vilnius’ Tales got to keep similar concept, with the only difference of being focused on one city’s center area. The last, sixth, volume is to be expected some time soon.


Unfortunately, I was much disappointed about this volume. I absolutely loved previous four volumes, and, of course, had high expectations on this one, but looks like Max Frei is slowly running out of ideas. The content was much weaker, the magical realism wasn’t as strong as it used to be in previous books, and I almost forced myself to finish it instead of labeling with DNF status, although I wanted to do so at least twice within the week of reading. There were some stories a little bit stronger that grabbed me, but overall, I wasn’t feeling it on any level.

Another, not really sad, but definitely missing thing is the map of Old Town. Having them printed separately as an Appendix to books or imprinted onto flyleaves would help A LOT to those unfamiliar with the city. Maybe I’m sad because I basically LOVE maps.

On the other hand, I loved those small illustrations throughout the book. Also, despite being, in my humblest opinion, the worst volume in the series, it was still very quotable, as I’ve noted so many parts that I’ll soon write down to my quote journal. I’m not really sure that I’ll reread that as my physical copy arrives, but I’m planning to reread the whole series, so I probably can’t miss it while doing so.


Is there any book that you were really hyped to read, but in the end it was nothing but plain disappointment? Did you still finish it, or you DNF’d it?

I’m finally moving on to reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and looks like opinions from international bookstagram society are complete opposite to what Russians think of it. Let’s see how it goes with me.


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