The Wizard of Knebworth; Stephen King, Will Self and Anthony Horovwitz’s prophecies on Crouch End and the mystery of the Northern Line’s convoluted configuration, these and many more marvels, myths and adventures are unravelled in Hertfordshire based writer Vitali Vitaliev’s fantasy novel Granny Yaga. The book is a wondrous retelling of the Slavic folktale Baba Yaga the witch, who lives in a hut standing on chicken legs and flies around using a pestle and mortar rather than a broomstick only now she is transported from the forests of Eastern Europe to a suburban street in London.

“Slavic folklore with its abundance of colourful and often evil characters is fertile ground for Halloween inspiration,” said book author Vitali Vitaliev. “Baba Yaga is the most famous figure from Slavic mythology although I think she is often misunderstood. Readers will find my interpretation rather more sympathetic and the character of Baba Yaga far more charismatic.”

There are lots of fabulous characters to meet including the Highgate Vampire, the Crouch End Spriggan, Bulgakov the cat who quotes Carl Jung and Granny Yaga herself, who can often be seen flying low over the British Museum. Other London locations that feature large are Bloomsbury’s Atlantis bookshop (which specialises in the occult) and the ponds on Hampstead Heath, known for their hauntings.

Vitali has a light tone as he tells of astral taxis and stone dragons that come to life but his story also reflects on what it truly feels like to start a new life in a strange country where you don’t know a single word of the language.

Vitali is well read and has a magical talent for weaving a tale and for delivering laugh out loud lines such as when Dickens is described as: “Posh, flirty and too full of himself.”

A Ukrainian-born Russian (with British and Australian citizenship), Vitaliev studied French and English at Kharkiv University. He then worked as an investigative journalist in the Soviet Union. As a result, he was forced to defect from the USSR by the KGB in January 1990.

He has become widely known for his regular appearances on TV and radio. Vitaliev has published 12 books, which have been translated into a number of languages.

A former staff columnist for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The European, The Australian and many more, he has also made several TV documentaries and is the winner of over 20 journalistic and literary awards in the USSR and in the West.

Unsurprisingly, Granny Yaga has already be optioned for film and I eagerly await its release and the second Granny Yaga volume, which is set in Edinburgh, in this refreshing series which thoroughly updates witchcraft in the internet age.

The book is available from Amazon.