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The Secret History of Moscow

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,032 ratings  ·  187 reviews
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 faery-tale creatures whisper strange tales to those who would listen. Galina is a young woman caught, like her contemporaries, in th ...more
Kindle Edition, 311 pages
Published December 16th 2010 by Prime Books (first published November 1st 2007)
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Jun 24, 2011 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: butcher birds
Recommended to Mariel by: Mariel the horrible
I really want to talk about crack babies to talk about how I feel about this book. That's what I'm thinking about. "Mariel, they are born into a disrupted world and missing a chemical/spiritual/whatever balance..." and then I think crack babies 'cause my attention span is shot and I'm a half thought kinda person on good days.

I'd take a picture of my mind map and the connect the dots if I could. (They show a picture of a dog's head when joined! Because that's what my mind thinks of when it think
Small Creek
The Secret History of Moscow reads like a fusion of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and American Gods, only set in Moscow and populated by Slavic deities.

On the one hand I can't say that I'm much enamoured by any of our protagonists, which is not to say that they are not good characters. They are, in fact, rather well-written individuals with layers of personality and lots of spirit--I just happen not to like any of them. As always, I've fallen for the minor league players. It's doubly more fascinating
Ben Babcock
I don’t know a lot about Moscow, or even Russia in general. If I had more free time, I would devote some of it to feeling guilty for this gap in my knowledge. Some day I might even get around to rectifying it by reading some informative books on the subject, rather than fantasy (which, I’m given to understand, is not always 100% factual—odd, that). But not today! No, today I’ll talk about The Secret History of Moscow, in all its dark and magical glory.

Ekaterina Sedia writes fairy tales. The Alc
I really wanted to like this, but I just couldn't do it. The concept sounded fascinating--people turning into jackdaws, a hidden mythological underground, Russian folklore--but it was such a pain to read. Galina was obnoxious, and there wasn't enough to the other characters to give them anything. And she can't write dialogue. This was probably some of the worst dialogue I've read in a while. The prose and the descriptions of what people felt was okay, but the dialogue and even action sequences w ...more
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile

When I saw the reviews for this book I saw it discussed as a mixture of Neverwhere and American Gods - two books I love from Neil Gaiman. And while the comparison is a fair one when it comes to the premise of the story, it doesn't really live up to the comparison in execution.

I wanted to love this book. It's right up my alley, and it's a book that I should've loved, but while it was interesting, it just sort of fell flat. I think mostly it's because the characters never seemed really develope
It does help to have either a knowledge of Russian Fairy Tales or a source to look them up in when reading this book.

That said, this is a good book. Sedia tells the story of Galina who is looking for her missing sister. It is wonderful to read a fairy tale influenced novel where the women actually get along and where sisters like each. Kate Crackernuts is another fairy story where the sisters are friends and not rivals.

Sedia does an excellent job of mixing fantasy and real people. Her idea that
The Secret History of Moscow
Ekaterina Sedia
Prime Books

Kat Sedia's "new" book, (it came out sometime in 2007, but my reading schedule is slow as molasses) The Secret History of Moscow, is an intriguing novel about set in both the normal world of Moscow in the 1990s and in the strange underworld beneath it where both mythical figures from Moscow's past rub shoulders with Muscovites and visitors from many eras. When Maria, the sister of the main character Galina mysteriously turns into a jackdaw an
Jun 12, 2015 Gergana marked it as zzz-2015-books-not-for-me  ·  review of another edition
DNF, 30%

Not my cup of tea. I am a huge fan of Slavic Myths and legends, but this book was slightly too dark and depressing. I expected more magic, more wonder, more of a fairy-tale feel to it. Why cruel World? Why?
Nicholas Karpuk
I have yet to read a book by a Russian author that has all that many nice things to say about Russia or Russians. Something in the character of their artists just seems to provoke statements in the genre of, "You know what wrong with this place?" Having never been to the country, I'm uncertain what colors that world view.


It's strange after reading a sword n' horses fantasy for me to actually encounter a book that could have used more pages.

"The Secret History of Moscow" is a book about
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The idea of an underground world populated by fantastic and folklorish creatures has been done before to great success (Neverwhere by Gaiman comes to mind, among many others), but I didn't find too much that was particularly distinctive or engaging about Sedia's prose. This is set in Moscow in the 1990's, and the goings-on in the book are very tied to Russia's atmosphere of the time. That was very interesting to me, along with the various Russia ...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
This is what going mad feels like.

Imagine: Your heavily pregnant sister vanishes from the bathroom one evening. A locked bathroom, in the eighth story apartment you share with your mother. Leaving her baby behind, apparently having paused to birth it. And there is something familiar about the look in that white jackdaw's eye. The jackdaw might just be your sister.

Galina, the young Russian woman to whom all this happens knows a thing or two about madness, and sanity:

"Galina remembered that day, w
I agree with those who expected more of this book. Let me explain what I thought was wrong with it. There's lots of folklore in this book, but it has no depth or vitality. It was like a mythology cartoon. It seemed to me as if the author herself had no real connection with any of it. The way to make it real is to show us a context in which the old Gods and Goddesses had real meaning in people's lives and weren't just folklore. Show us the way people lived with their deities. At one point, Galina ...more
Mar 21, 2008 Sean rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sean by: Laura Llew
Shelves: fantasy, non-us
It is the early nineties in Moscow, and reality seems to be thinning and winding down along with communism. People are disappearing, transformed into birds before the eyes of their loved ones; strange passages to another world are opening around the city, glimpsed in reflections and dark buildings; and legends seem to be coming to life. Three people are drawn through one of these passages: Galina, whose sister gave birth and then turned into a jackdaw; Yakov, a policeman who wants to believe onl ...more
Paul Eckert
The Secret History of Moscow was like a cross between Neil Gaiman's American Gods and The Inferno.

The premise: Galina's sister turns into a jackdaw after giving birth. Her pursuit of the truth leads her into a mystical underworld where Russian legends, fables, and ordinary citizens have wound up after being forgotten or detached from the world.

Every character has an interesting history, and this provides some of the best storytelling in the story. We get to meet characters of Russian folklore
Arun Divakar
The name is quite an enigmatic one don't you think ? The secret history of Moscow makes you think of mythology & strange creatures, the backdrop of the Onion shaped domes of the Kremlin providing an ambience that few can match and so forth. What I have described above is true in parts when applied to this story but as a whole it is unsatisfying a dish !

At one glance it is a good mix of Gaiman's American Gods & Neverwhere . There is a world beneath our dwellings and populated by the ic
I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to get started on Alchemy of Stone.

I think what stuck with me most was the characters' love of "Moscow of the past." The old homes and buildings that made up the city center where only the privileged few lived. The transition from "Past Moscow" to the concrete and utilitarian "Soviet Moscow" was apparent in the characters' memories of their childhoods and how as we move to adulthood we are somehow robbed of our childhood beliefs and ideas. Finally to a "
Emil Söderman
If there's one word I would use to describe this book it's "Gaimanesque". (And the fact that this word exists amuses me greatly) It reads a bit like a russian American Gods crossed with Neverwhere, although far less glamorous than either of those. It is the story of how about of broken-down russians gets involved in a supernatural conspiracy and end the story just as broken as when they began it.

The story draws heavily on russian history (of which I caught most of it) and fairy tales (which I pr
May 17, 2012 Kevin marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kevin by: Kim
Nope, had to abandon it - 80-something pages in and no spark for me whatsoever. I think Sedia needs an editor, or one that's more attentive than whoever worked on this one. Everything was jammed together with no purpose, no pacing. The perfunctory and joyless introduction of the three protagonists felt rushed, as if she thought she had to get all of their back stories out at the very beginning. "Here is Person A and her entire history up to now. Here is Person B and his entire history up to now. ...more
Jan 23, 2011 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rusalki i kulturnyh
Recommended to Alan by: Subsequent work
"You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side? It is greener, because you're not there. And if you go you'll trample it and leave dirty footprints and probably spill something poisonous."

Some people make the mistake of thinking that magic is stronger than science, older and more powerful, but we city-dwellers know that magic is a fragile thing, easily driven away or trampled underfoot by unthinking humanity. When magic is attacked, it retreats, into the high places,
Rose Be
This was an excellent book. It follows the story of a schizophrenic and a drunk as they try to solve a mystery-- people are turning into birds all over Moscow. In their quest, they discover a secret underground world, where some of Moscow's ancient, magical or godly residents have moved over time. I enjoyed all the detail and strangeness in this book-- it's set at the end of Moscow's Soviet era, and the underground world is populated by creatures out of Russian history and myth. There were occas ...more
This book does what Neil Gaiman says (rather modestly) "does for Moscow what I tried to do for London in "Neverwhere" -- it's about the "hidden" world of Moscow. For Gaiman, it was London Below as versus London above. Very few people could enter these wonderful worlds of imagination unless the writer writes the story as if "London Below or Moscow Below" (for lack of a better term) were excellent writers. It's a true joy to suspend one's disbelief with Neil Gaiman --- and I liked "The Secret Hist ...more
this book wasn't bad. it was similar to neverwhere except set in moscow (neil gaiman does the byline on the cover and says as much) and i liked it for the same reasons i like neverwhere. it felt like a lot of the other russian lit i've read-- a little stark, a little spare, but darkly interesting. i also enjoy the changing points of view, giving us a bit of backstory on everyone. i know as the reader i was meant to sympathize with galina, but honestly the populace of the underground were my favo ...more
somehow managing to be lovely and earthy at the same time (lyrical little bursts of magic happen to broken-souled wage slaves), Sedia's novels are much more about the journey than the destination. if you're expecting gun-slinging KGB agents when you see the word "Moscow" in the title, you'll be wondering where the action is. if instead you're content to sink into a richly imagined set of worlds - both the mundane and the underground are each richly textured places of colors and scents and the te ...more
May 08, 2011 Stacey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jaime
Recommended to Stacey by: io9 website
This book is a light-hearted almost-fairy tale about the magical and pagan underworld of Moscow. The principle characters all come from misfit, outcast backgrounds, but are believable, and travel to the underworld to search for missing loved ones. They meet fascinating creatures out of Russian fairy tales and have weird adventures. Lots of things have happened I never expected from reading the description back of the book, but that's been part of the fun of reading it so far, so I won't go into ...more
Jule Hack
Moskau. Lauter Menschen verschwinden auf unerklärliche Weise und immer mehr Vögel scheint es in der Stadt zu geben. Galina, die wir im ersten Kapitel kennen lernen, arbeitet als Übersetzerin, wird aber gerade von ihrer Mutter durch ihre mehrmaligen Erscheinungen als "nicht richtig im Kopf" abgestempelt. Und das sie mit fast dreißig noch keinen Mann hat und somit kein Enkelkind in die Welt setzten konnte, macht das Familienleben nicht besser. Als dann aber ihre hochschwangere Schwester aus dem Ba ...more
Zmęczyłam tę książkę. Nie, żeby nie dało się jej czytać. Po prostu zachęty z okładki kłamały.

"Rosyjski talent na miarę Neila Gaimana"? "Taka może być tylko prawdziwa rosyjska literatura"? Litości...
Jedyne, co znalazło potwierdzenie w treści, to: "napisana przez byłą moskwiankę, mieszkającą obecnie w New Jersey" oraz że prezentowana przez nią literatura jest "z rosyjskim akcentem". Tak, rosyjskim akcentem jest nazwisko autorki. I dedykacja zapisana grażdanką. Cała fabuła, gdyby zmienić imiona i n
Beth Cato
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
For fans of Neil Gaiman. This is an entertaining book that is a combination of the Gaiman's "American Gods" and "Neverwhere." Set in Moscow and dealing with ancient Russian legends, it may not be as familiar to readers as the pantheons that Gaiman uses, but it sucks you in just the same.
Read this for 2013 Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge. I'm... not sure. I am conflicted and unsure about this book. I need to write a review. Some parts were a pleasant surprise, but some were quite disappointing. To be continued.
Sarah Keliher
Could have used better editing - it felt a lot like trying to read a long Mad Lib. Maybe I'll try it again sometime when I'm feeling more patient, as it's gotten a lot of good reviews.
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Ekaterina Sedia is also credited as E. Sedia.
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“You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side? It is greener, because you're not there. And if you go you'll trample it and leave dirty footprints and probably spill something poisonous.” 15 likes
“He was still wide awake when the morning came - the light changed imperceptibly underground, with the glowtrees flaring up brightly, and the shimmer of golden dust that remained suspended in the musty air, as if millions of butterflies had shed the scales of their wings in midair.” 3 likes
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