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Historical Fiction Early Review: The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova

The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova


Egalley thanks to Scribner

Synopsis from Goodreads
The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor—all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command—for her entertainment—these two are to be married, the relationship consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.

Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.

J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genrebending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn—on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology—will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.

Release Date: July 23rd 2013.
Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond

8.5/10

* * *

*SLIGHT SPOILERS*
The Age of Ice is a book in its own genre which took me completely by surprise.

I love reading Russian authors in English language because if the book is good I can recommend it to you, guys, and you might pick it up one day and learn something about the culture and rich history I grew up with. The Age of Ice is one of those books.


It describes the life of a man who is born as a freak of nature. He is absolutely immune to cold, and he has this weird affinity for ice and frost. He also can not die.

Because of his sheer lifespan Velitzyn starts his military career during the reign of Empress Elizaveta, gets into the thick of Pugachev's rebellion during Catherine The Great, becomes a part of a team exploring Siberia, and let me tell you - the journey he undertakes is harsh and gripping. Its hardships turn him into a broken, quiet and dark man...

While he is slowly aging in his estate mourning the death of the only woman he loved, Napoleon invades Russia, and he undergoes a metamorphosis again becoming a sort of a Father Frost symbol of Russian partisans and only developing consciousness again as a younger version of himself in Paris after Napoleon's fall.

The fascinating tale doesn't stop there, because to escape the coldness within himself Alexander runs to a hot and dry Afghanistan where he becomes again embroiled into thick political intrigues of a Great Game between British and Russian Empire.

Little does he know that he will only see his beloved Russia again just before the Revolution while hiding under a facade of a British industrialist and falling crazy in love with a rich Russian girl...

I will have to stop the spoilers here, but bear in mind that the story reads as a recollection from Velitzyn's letters and diaries to himself and presumably he is still alive right now...

This is a complex, slow and rich in detail historical fiction from those parts of the world you would not necessarily know much about. J.M. Sidorova must have done an enormous research because the historical details and atmosphere are just stunning, but at the forefront of it all is one man's struggle against the time and his own nature. It's melancholic and stark and very Russian.

I hope The Age of Ice will find its way to the right audience, because while I personally think this book is wonderful I can see that a lot of people will struggle with its unique style. Recommended.


* * *
Я честно считаю, что Эпоха Льда написана просто великолепно, но судя по тем рецензиям, что я вижу на Гудридс, она не для всех. Так что пошлите вы эти рецензии к чёртовой матери и читайте!

Мне всегда интересно читать прозу русских писателей на английском языке, потому как я каждый раз надеюсь, что смогу её порекомендовать англоговорящим читателям, и Сидорова меня в этом аспекте совершенно не подвела.

Эпоха Льда рассказывает о князе Александре Велицыне, который обладает странным иммунитетом по отношению к холоду и льду. Он их не чувствует и в то же время температура его тела тоже остаётся довольно холодной, а если он волнуется или переживает сильные эмоции, то может холодом своего тела и обжечь. 

Из-за своего проклятия или дара, Александр старается держаться в стороне от потенциальных друзей и пытается не иметь ничего общего с женщинами, чтобы неосторожно их не покалечить.

Его жизнь гвардейца заканчивается когда он спешит на помощь брату, застрявшему в Екатеринбурге во время пугачёвских бунтов, затем, чтобы избежать его вдовы, Велицын отправляется в путешествие по открытию и изучению Арктики... Путешествие, которое раскрывает тёмные стороны его натуры и ломает что-то во всех своих участниках.

Возвратившись, Велицын подбирает осколки своей жизни и начинает продажу изысканного льда, который он создаёт своими собственными руками. Годами позже постаревший и умирающий Александр готовится к Наполеоновскому нашествию и забредая в снежную бурю превращается в дедушку Мороза, помогающего русским партизанам.

Только несколько лет спустя он вновь приходит в сознание в своём помолодевшем теле в Париже. Но его удивительная история на этом не заканчивается...

Эпоха Льда начинается в России, проходит через всё Сибирь, Францию, Афганистан и Азию и заканчивается в Европе на настоящий момент, ибо Велицын как и сам лёд не может умереть. Это история о глубоком одиночестве, меланхолии и вечном душевном поиске, которым так известны русские по всему миру.

Видно, что автор тщательно изучала исторические периоды и регионы, затронутые повествованием. Добавьте к этому необычайно интересные и сложные характеры второстепенных героев, стиль дневников самого Велицына, и получите неспешную, чарующую прозу в довольно весомом томе.

Очень рекомендую, душевно и красочно.
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