The Secret History of Moscow

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9780809572236: The Secret History of Moscow

  • Every city contains secret places. Moscow in the tumultuous 1990s is no different, its citizens seeking safety 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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From Publishers Weekly:

Sedia (According to Crow) applies urban fantasy templates to her Russian setting with mixed success in her second stand-alone novel. Masha, the cheerfully normal sister of vision-prone translator Galina, turns into a jackdaw and flies off, leaving her just-born child behind. Joined by police detective Yakov Richards, Galina tracks the missing Masha into an underground milieu where lost souls mingle with beings out of Russian folklore. A host of secondary characters rapidly clutter the narrative and cloud its focus, and Sedia's persistently curt prose favors contemporary atmosphere over mythic resonance, diminishing Koschey the Deathless and Zemun the Celestial Cow to near-mundane status. Modern blue-collar Moscow is pitch-perfect, however: bustling yet seedy, disorganized and none too respectable. While undeniably authentic, the cynical tone may alienate many Western readers before they reach the startling but well-grounded climax. On the whole, this wholeheartedly Russian tale is most compelling as social commentary. (Nov.)
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