The Secret History of Moscow: Russian mythology makes an enchanting story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Ekaterina Sedia The Secret History of MoscowThe Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia

Much praise has been attached to The Secret History of Moscow and I can understand why. Ekaterina Sedia weaves an enchanting story drawing from both Russian mythology and history. I’m not really familiar with Russian myth (or history for that matter) but that didn’t hindered me from appreciating this novel. I expect that readers more educated in those areas will appreciate all the allusions Sedia includes in The Secret History of Moscow.

However, the real strength of The Secret History of Moscow is Sedia’s writing and how closely she pays attention to characterization. This novel has a huge cast, and in nearly every chapter Sedia devotes time to flesh out the histories and personalities of various characters — whether they’re the heroes of the story or merely victims of events.
However, The Secret History of Moscow isn’t one of those big epics with endless characters and perpetually shifting perspectives. Rather, Sedia mainly sticks with three protagonists. Her characters are complex, tragic in many ways, and they drew me in and kept me hooked.

If you’re looking for a tour of Moscow, Sedia accomplishes that not by excess physical descriptions of locales, but rather by capturing its atmosphere, its bleakness, and the characters who live in such a place. Her language is easy to get into and lyrical at times and her writing is infused with a distinct but comfortable Russian voice.

Overall The Secret History of Moscow is a highly recommended read regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with Russian lore.

FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.

The Secret History of Moscow — (2007) Publisher: Every city contains secret places. Moscow in the tumultuous 1990s is no different, its citizens seeking safey in a world below the streets-a dark, cavernous world of magic, weeping trees, and albino jackdaws, where exiled pagan deities and faerytale creatures whisper strange tales to those who would listen. Galina is a young woman caught, like her contemporaries, in the seeming lawlessness of the new Russia. In the midst of this chaos, her sister Maria turns into a jackdaw and flies away — prompting Galina to join Yakov, a policeman investigating a rash of recent disappearances. Their search will take them to the underground realm of hidden truths and archetypes, to find themselves caught between reality and myth, past and present, honor and betrayal… the secret history of Moscow.

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CHARLES TAN, one of our guest reviewers, is the owner of the blogs Bibliophile Stalker and Comic Quest. He also edits Philippine Speculative Fiction. You can read his fiction in that publication and in The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Charles has conducted interviews for The Nebula Awards and The Shirley Jackson Awards, as well as for online magazines such as SF Crowsnest and SFScope. He is a regular contributor to sites like SFF Audio and Comics Village.

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