Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading on a Theme: A Russian Setting

I've been on a bit of a Russian history kick as of late, and so, when I saw that several new books were set in Russian, I knew that I wanted to do a Russian Reading on a Theme. A little reminiscing is in order here because the very first Reading on a Theme we did on this blog was Russian themed. I can hardly believe it was so long ago. Winter is, of course, the perfect time to read a book set in Russia, so grab a cozy blanket before you pick up any of these books. 


Imperial Russia:
I really enjoyed the mix of magic, competition, and old Russia in The Crown's Game. Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov are the only two enchanters in Russia, but there is only enough Russian magic for one Imperial Enchanter, and so, the Tsar initiates the Crown's Game, an ancient duel of magical skills. To lose means certain death. Evelyn Skye's debut was such a welcome surprise. It is full of elements I love--an alternate history, magic, and a fabulous setting. I'm eager to read the sequel. The magical duel and the complicated feelings of its participants reminded me a bit of The Night Circus, which, in my book, is always a very good thing. I also loved the hints of the cartoon version of Anastasia.


The Russian Empire:
Marguerite's parents are geniuses. Together they invented the Firebird, a device that allows an individual to travel across dimensions. Marguerite's happy life comes crashing down when her father is murdered. In a race to find the killer Marguerite takes a Firebird prototype and hops across the dimensions in hot pursuit. When her Firebird is damages she spends several months trapped in a parallel world where she is a daughter of the Tsar in world where the Russian Empire never fell. I am such a sucker for parallel realities and alternate dimensions, and I loved reading about all the parellel worlds Claudia Gray created throughout this series.



Medieval Russia:
In this highly anticipated debut, Katherine Arden spins a story that blends Russian fairy tales and folklore with history. Vaslisa is a girl with old magic in her blood, and she must save her village by honoring the old traditions. I really loved the feel of this story. It has a mysterious quality to it that reminded me a little of The Snow Child. I also loved how the tale is wrapped in the world of Medieval Russia. The fairy tale aspects and the historical are woven together so well. The Bear and the Nightingale is the perfect winter read, so curl up with a cozy blanket and a warm drink and crack this one open. The Bear and the Nightingale was out January 10, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley. 


The Russian Revolution:
Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White is set during the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Bolshevik regime. Sedgwick weaves history and the lives of real historical figures with Russian fairy tales. The writing, the pacing, and the charging Russian bear all lend a fantastical quality to the historical events, yet they remain tragic and bloody, as Russian fairy tales often are. In Parts Two and Three, Sedgwick tells the story of Arthur Ransome, a British journalist working in Russian. A real historical figure and well-known writer, Arthur Ransome published, among other things, a book of Russian fairy tales entitled Old Peter's Russian Tales. I really liked the tone of the book and the mood established by the fairy tale structure.


The Stalinist Era:
Sana Krasikov's debut, spans multiple generations and several decades. Beginning in the 1930s, we see idealistic Florence Fein leave Brooklyn for the Soviet Union. In 2002, Florence's son seeks answers about his mother's life and hopes to convince his son to leave his job in Russia and return home to the United States. Sana Krasikov's story is truly epic, and I was deeply engrossed in Florence's tale in particular. The way Russia kept drawing the Brink men back to Russia was also fascinating. Ms. Krasikov takes her time with the intricacies of the story and the result is a tale digs deep into the trauma of the Stalinist era for one family. The Patriots is out January 24, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.


All books reviewed by JoLee.

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