Mentee Name: Mara Rutherford
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fairytale Retelling
Word Count: 70,000
Raised in Russia by her Japanese-American father, 17-year-old Akira is as different from her classmates as her sword fighting is from her ballet lessons. When she discovers chilling links between a serial killer and her grandfather’s fairytales, Akira must battle an immortal hell-bent on adding her soul to his collection.
Listen carefully, child, and I will tell you the story of Kaschey the Deathless.
My grandfather had been trying to frighten me with the same fairytale my entire life. It was the kind of tale villagers told children to keep them from wandering into the woods, the Russian equivalent of Little Red Riding Hood. But just as I was never scared of a wolf wearing a bonnet and bifocals, there was nothing remotely frightening about my grandfather, so I paid little attention to his stories.
“Solavushka, are you listening?”
I smiled at the nickname—Nightingale—which I earned as an infant when I kept everyone up all night with my “singing.” “Da, da. I know about Kaschey. Take your medicine, please.”
My grandfather batted my hand away. He’d told the story frequently when I was young, but lately it had taken a different turn. Dementia, my father insisted.
“He will not appear as a wicked old man with a long white beard and make you his wife, the way the storybooks say.”
“Goodnight, Deduskha.” I reached for the lamp, but he gripped my arm with surprising strength. “What is it now?”
“I met him when I was a young man, Akira. He had taken the form of a small girl.”
“Oh really? And how did you know it was Kaschey?”
“Because I saw his teeth. Rows and rows, needle sharp. And he made a horrible noise, like an insect screaming. It was loud enough to raise the dead.”