“In a city by the sea which was once called St. Petersburg there stood a long, thin house on a long, thin street. By a long, thin window, a child in a pale blue dress and pale green slippers waited for a bird to marry her.”

In two opening sentences, Peaks Island author Catherynne Valente sets the tone of her widely acclaimed fantasy novel, while at the same time introducing her main character — the enigmatic Marya Morevna.

Set in post-revolution Russia of the 1920s, the book’s highly imaginative plot quickly unfolds. An owl intent upon marrying Marya falls from a tree outside her window and turns into a man upon hitting the ground.

When Marya answers his knock on the heavy wood door, the ex-owl introduces himself as Comrade Koschei. “I have come for the girl in the window,” he tells her. He is a man with black “unforgiving” eyes and hair that flies in the wind “like the fur of a wild dog.”

Against her better judgment, yet feeling she has no choice, Marya joins Koschei in his driverless car. The vehicle is magical, as just about everything is in this novel. It turns into a horse at one point. In another instance, it grows chicken feet in place of wheels.

Figures from ancient Russian mythology loom in this “Odyssey”– like novel in which Marya Morevna is a kind of Ulysses. Her husband, Koschei, the former owl, is the mythological equivalent of the devil in European folklore. There’s fearful Baba Yager who, like Koschei’s car, has chicken feet. And there are little nasty spirits called Leshy who interact with humans.

The weirdness of “Deathless,” combined with its difficult-to-follow plot and unfamiliar mythology, was too much for me. It is grim fantasy so disconnected from reality that its plethora of magical events come to seem ridiculous.

To me, reading “Deathless” was like reading “Harry Potter” as an adult, albeit an infernally more complex book than J.K. Rowling’s benign series.

But a curious reader would be wise to read “Deathless” and arrive at his own conclusion, because my take on the book isn’t widely shared.

Publisher’s Weekly raves about “Deathless.” Cory Doctorow, a reviewer and science-fiction novelist, calls it “romantic and blood-streaked, and infused with magic so real you can feel it on your fingertips.”

Entertainment Weekly tags it a “lyrical” and “witchy” book that “mixes feminist grit with pixie dust.”

At 31, Valente has written nine previous novels, beginning with “The Labyrinth” in 2004 — all of them well received.

She’s twice been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and received the Andre Norton Award for her novel “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,” which was featured last week in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

“Deathless” is a decidedly different book that will probably be enjoyed by adventurous readers who like daring fantasy.

Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.