Review of "The Secret History of Moscow"

Picture by Bob Canada
Sometimes logic isn't about A + B = C.  Sometimes it's * + % = platypus, or in the case of Russian folklore, maiden + drowning = rusalki.  Russian folktales are wonderfully unpredictable to a cowpoke like me, and I love the twisty concepts of justice embedded in tales.  Consequently, The Secret History of Moscow completely rocked my world.  Ekaterina Sedia, born in Russia, weaves Russian folktales together and integrates them with a modern urban fantasy plot.

The protagonist, Galina, has spent most of her adult life bouncing in and out of asylums, and subsequently does not expect anyone to believe her when her pregnant sister turns into a bird, leaving the baby behind on the bathroom floor.  Driven by love and the guilt that the healthy, whole sister was the one taken, Galina joins a homeless artist and one of Moscow's finest in the search for Masha beneath Moscow's ancient streets.

Her prose was as smooth as rich as a whiskey on the rocks...actually, a vodka on the rocks, maybe with a little lemon.  One could see that her Russian heritage created a gritty view of Moscow beyond what the tourists see.  In fact, the stereotypical tourists' perception of the city is met with tired derision.  Galina is an incredibly sympathetic character, and the characters found beneath Moscow range from heart-wrenching to downright creepy.

I don't remember having enjoyed a book quite so much for quite some time.  I'm giddy with joy, thankful she has several other volumes out.


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