I will confess that I didn't have time to read the whole thing before it had to go back to the library. I prioritized and read my favorite authors fir...moreI will confess that I didn't have time to read the whole thing before it had to go back to the library. I prioritized and read my favorite authors first, then used what little time I had left to read authors I'd been curious about. I probably spoiled the careful curation of the editors who arranged the story order. Oh well. Once this book isn't quite so hot, I will check it out again.
Read on the first go-round:
"Bombshells" by Jim Butcher "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell" by Brandon Sanderson "The Girl in the Mirror" by Lev Grossman "The Princess and the Queen" by George R. R. Martin [I may be wrong, but I think this is actually novella/novelette length](less)
The prose in this book is lovely, and the author [and the audiobook reader] does a fine job of setting up a mildly spooky atmosphere. For that, I give...moreThe prose in this book is lovely, and the author [and the audiobook reader] does a fine job of setting up a mildly spooky atmosphere. For that, I give the book at least three stars. However, "spooky" is as far as things go---there are hints at something supernatural afoot, but that element is never fully realized.
We the reader are tantalized by hints that something sinister, menacing, or at least ancient and mysterious might be lurking around the corner. When nothing much materializes, all we are left with a sad biography of a young, industrious man who ignores kith and kin in his Industrial Age pursuit of efficiency. Remove the hints and teases of the supernatural and what we have is a rather bland morality story.
While this audiobook was a pleasant enough listen as I traveled, I doubt I ever would have finished it if I'd read it in print. For those looking for atmospheric spookiness, with or without a touch of magic, I would suggest reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Caleb Carr's The Alienist, or Dan Simmons' Drood.(less)
I enjoyed The Age of Ice in the same way one enjoys Dostoyevsky or Moby Dick. This is a very Russian novel at its core, and those who come in expectin...moreI enjoyed The Age of Ice in the same way one enjoys Dostoyevsky or Moby Dick. This is a very Russian novel at its core, and those who come in expecting a more American story [in pacing and in structure] will leave unsatisfied. If, however, you [like me] love the endless fields of wheat in Anna Karenina and shiver at the frostbitten romance in Doctor Zhivago, you may enjoy this book.
My review is not a plot summary: plenty of others have already provided such. Instead, I'd like to list what I feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
The good: I enjoyed reading about historical movements [the war of 1812, for example] from a non-American, or even non-British, point of view. How interesting to hear of the complex relationship between Austria and Russia, and how much easier to see the tangled web of allegiances that led up to WWI!
The sheer amount of plot that Sidorova manages to pack into a few pages is astonishing. I remember looking down multiple times to check the page number, astounded that solid sense of character and a complete antagonistic story arc [with our narrator's brother] was complete after only 60 pages. At 100, I felt I'd had as much story as sometimes achieved in an epic fantasy tome of 600 pages.
I love Russian literature, and this book revels in Russian-ness. The magic is unexplained, the environment cold, and the people both heroic and despicable. Everyday life is fraught with symbolism [often of impending doom].
The bad: Here I'm torn. Although I do appreciate the economy of the descriptions, it seems like the author ran out of steam 3/4 of the way through. Entire decades go by with a small summary paragraph. While not everyone is interesting all the time, I felt that those passages should be either fleshed out or cut altogether.
Enough with the ominous foreshadowing! A very tiny amount of "little did I know..." or "terrible thing XYZ happened, but I get ahead of myself..." goes a long way.
Overall, I was very impressed by this book. It was a welcome break from oversexed urban fantasy, over-elved epic fantasy, and overwritten literary fiction. Especially impressive is the fact that this is a debut novel! I will definitely look for more books from this author.(less)