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When an ancient bear made of gold is found walled up in a dilapidated St Petersburg bathhouse, three people are drawn into a journey along the frozen pathways of Russia's primitive and terrible mythology.
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Kim Wilkins is an Australian bestseller who has won an Aurealis Award for both Best Horror Novel and Best Novel. She resides in Brisbane with her husband, son, assorted cats, and far too many books.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Rosa Kovalenka was beautiful and clever, but nobody knew the truth about her.
Not Daniel, not Uncle Vasily, and certainly not the American foreman who caught his breath from the run up the stairs before speaking.
â€œThereâ€™s been an accident,â€ he said.
Rosa leapt up from her desk. â€œIs anybody hurt?â€
â€œNot that kind of an accident.â€ He removed his hard hat, revealing sandy curling hair. â€œIâ€™m sorry, Miss Kovalenka, but weâ€™ve mistakenly knocked a hole in one of the walls.â€ His eyes flicked around nervously. â€œIs Vasily here?â€
â€œNo, Jamie, Uncle Vasily is at lunch.â€ She offered a reassuring smile. â€œShow me. Maybe itâ€™s not so bad.â€
Rosa followed Jamie from the office and down the worn stone steps to the street. She had been working in Uncle Vasilyâ€™s business for the past six months, and she knew his temper was legendary, which accounted for Jamieâ€™s anxious body language as he strode ahead of her. Two doors up stood the bathhouse. A nineteenth-century structure that had been boarded up for forty years, it was the current object of Vasilyâ€™s unstoppable desire to transform every old building in St. Petersburg into luxury apartments.
â€œItâ€™s the sub-contractors,â€ Jamie was saying in embarrassed tones. Rosa knew that Jamie nursed a crush on her and revealing this lapse of judgment clearly pained him. â€œWe speak English, they speak Russian. Something got lost in translation and they started pulling out a wall.â€
â€œWell, theyâ€™ll have to put it back,â€ she said gently.
â€œTheyâ€™ve destroyed the plaster work, cracked all the tiles.â€
â€œUncle Vasily wonâ€™t be pleased.â€
â€œThe men were hoping youâ€™d tell him.â€ Jamie pushed open the door to the bathhouse; inside was dim and cold. One wall remained uncleaned, the mold of centuries gathered in its antique crevices. The tiles imparted a glassy echo to every sound.
â€œThereâ€™s something else,â€ Jamie said, leaning close, his clear green eyes holding her gaze. â€œInside the wall.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s inside the wall?â€
â€œWe didnâ€™t want to move it. But it looks like gold.â€
Rosa brushed Jamie aside and hurried to where the assembled crew stood scratching their heads, arguing in Russian and English. A bright spotlight had been angled directly into the gaping hole. She snapped at the crew to stand back, and leaned in.
Rainbow colors, golden mist, swirls of starlight patterns. An old song, half out of tune. A falling sensation beneath her ribs, an extra breath pressed into her lungs.
Rosa blinked. She had always seen things others didnâ€™t see: the magical world was laid bare to her, where it remained cloaked to most. This hollow in the wall was brimming over with magic. She peered closer and saw why. Shoved upside-down between two bricks was a bear made of gold.
Rosa gasped. â€œItâ€™s beautiful,â€ she said, reaching into the cavity. Dust and mold blackened the lower three inches of the bear, but the top half was clean. Rosaâ€™s fingers brushed against it and electricity snapped up her hand and forearm. She snatched her hand away.
The workmen exchanged nervous glances.
â€œItâ€™s enchanted,â€ she said, then repeated herself in Russian for the benefit of the locals. One or two of the crew snickered, probably the Americans.
The door to the bathhouse flew open and Vasily stood there, outlined by the sunlight from the street.
â€œWhat has happened!â€ he shrieked in Russian.
â€œUncle Vasily, calm down,â€ Rosa said, hurrying over and taking his fleshy arm. â€œI think the damage is not so bad, and they will be able to fix it easily. Come, you must see. A wonderful object has been found.â€
Vasily shook his head. â€œAy, Roshka. Can I not go to lunch without a disaster befalling me?â€
â€œItâ€™s not a disaster, Uncle Vasily. Itâ€™s a blessing. Youâ€™ll see.â€
She led him to the cavity and reached in for the bear. This time there was no electricity. The bear had already marked her. She drew it from its hiding place and Vasily hushed.
â€œDo you see?â€ Rosa said. â€œA hole in a wall is easy to repair. The bear wanted us to find her.â€
â€œIs it gold, Rosa?â€
â€œI think so.â€
Vasily touched it and Rosa noted that no electrical charge passed between the bear and her uncle.
â€œIs it very old and precious?â€ he said.
Jamie, obviously made curious by their hushed Russian, broke in. â€œYou should take that to a museum.â€
â€œWhat did he say?â€ Vasily snapped, though Rosa suspected he knew what was being said. He was too proud for misunderstandings, instead relying on Rosa for precise translations.
â€œJamie suggests a museum.â€
â€œIt is mine!â€
â€œI know, Uncle Vasily.â€
Vasily turned on Jamie and roared in darkly inflected English, â€œI am developer. I am not historian.â€
â€œItâ€™s all right, Jamie,â€ Rosa said to the foreman. â€œWe know what to do. Get your men to fix this wall. Uncle Vasily thanks you for your honesty.â€ She slipped off her jacket and wrapped the bear, then put out her hand to Vasily. He took it firmly.
â€œI wonâ€™t take it to a museum, Roshka,â€ he said as the door to the bathhouse thudded shut behind them.
â€œI know,â€ she said, then tried to cheer him out of his temper by teasing him. â€œUncle Vasily, how is that dark cold place ever going to be made into luxury apartments?â€
â€œYou sound like your mother,â€ he muttered, and Rosaâ€™s heart tumbled.
â€œSkylights?â€ she said, mock-brightly.
â€œSkylights. And heaters. And thick carpet. Somebody will buy them. Somebody always does.â€
She pushed open the heavy wooden door to their offices, and followed Vasily up the bare stone stairs. The first floor was an unfinished demolition site. The second floor was carpeted in green and wallpapered in cream and gold. Behind a partition, draftsmen and secretaries and engineers and accountants worked quietly. Vasily ushered Rosa into his private office and closed the door.
â€œShow me again,â€ he said.
Rosa carefully unwrapped the bear and stood it on the desk between the piles of plans and the streaming in-trays. â€œI think itâ€™s very old, Uncle Vasily,â€ she said.
â€œWhy do you think it, Rosa?â€
Rosa wouldnâ€™t say that she just felt it, because her mother had felt things and Vasily already spoke too much about El-lena Kovalenka. Her sad shade seemed always in mind.
â€œThe face on the bear looks odd, almost like a human face,â€ she said.
Vasily ran his fingers over his chin, pulling his bottom lip. His black hair, heavy with hair oil, flopped over his left eye. â€œYes, yes,â€ he said. â€œShe could be worth a fortune.â€
â€œWe should find out how much. We could ask a museumâ€"â€
â€œItâ€™s mine, Rosa. I wonâ€™t hand it over.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want you to hand it over. I want you only to authenticate it. They wonâ€™t take it from you. It was on your property.â€
â€œI donâ€™t trust historians!â€ he exclaimed, shooting out of his chair and adopting his customary brooding frown. â€œI donâ€™t trust museums! They are thieves of the dead.â€
Rosa scratched some of the black muck from the bear with her thumbnail. â€œI know somebody,â€ she said quietly. â€œSomebody who may be able to tell you if itâ€™s authentic or not. He would be discreet.â€
â€œWho is it?â€
â€œAn old friend. Heâ€™s in Novgorod. Heâ€™s a . . . researcher.â€ She avoided the word historian, malign as they were in Vasilyâ̈́...
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Book Description -. Paperback. Condition: Very Good. Rosa and the Veil of Gold This book is in very good condition and will be shipped within 24 hours of ordering. The cover may have some limited signs of wear but the pages are clean, intact and the spine remains undamaged. This book has clearly been well maintained and looked after thus far. Money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. See all our books here, order more than 1 book and get discounted shipping. Seller Inventory # 7719-9780732274078
Book Description - -. Paperback. Condition: Very Good. This book is in very good condition and will be shipped within 24 hours of ordering. The cover may have some limited signs of wear but the pages are clean, intact and the spine remains undamaged. This book has clearly been well maintained and looked after thus far. Money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. See all our books here, order more than 1 book and get discounted shipping. Seller Inventory # 6545-9780732274078
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2005. Paperback. Condition: Used; Good. Seller Inventory # 1839048