Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secret...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secrets, paranoia and love all stemming from a single event – the death of two teenagers during the Victory Parade. Had these been the children of lesser known families their deaths may have been unremarkable. But instead they were the children of some of the most well known and important people in 1945 Moscow. The investigation into their death – ‘The Children’s Case’ – quickly escalates into an even more suspenseful case of suspected political sabotage, secrets, lies and forbidden love affairs.
It is obvious that One Night in Winter is written by a historian. This novel is so rich in historical detail I truly felt as though I had been transported back to Soviet Russia. Many of the characters are real historical figures – including Stalin himself – and I loved getting this little (albeit fictional) glance into what their lives were like. When I was in university I read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s biography of Stalin but it was very factual and took a long time to get through. This book was the perfect comprise. I got to learn all about a fascinating period of history wrapped up in a high stakes novel of political intrigue.
The theme of paranoia is built into every scene, every character, every bit of dialogue. At one point well reading I remarked that “Soviet Russians must make the best chess players because they’re always thinking five moves ahead just to stay alive.” Every seemingly innocent or helpful statement can be misconstrued. It’s easy to talk about paranoia abstractly but One Night Winter illustrates how fast it can get away from you and what the costs of that paranoia can be. One character compares secrets to mine fields. You never know when one is going to blow up on you. I can not think of a more perfect way to sum up the fate of the teenagers in this novel.
My one complaint about this novel is that I didn’t quite find it as emotionally stirring as I had expected. While the first half of this novel focuses on the teenagers (and their creation of the Fatal Romantics club) the second half focuses on more specific love affairs. They are just as gripping as the interrogations and produce some fantastic lines, such as “Every love story is a requiem.” and “Heartbreak is an agonizing disease that you’re delighted to have.” But nevertheless I never felt emotionally invested in what was going to happen to them. I wanted to feel more for these characters then I did. It’s possible this was done on purpose (emotions being a bourgeois sentiment and all) but it didn’t quite work for me. It’s something I would love to discuss in a book club setting.
Overall, One Night in Winter is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Soviet Russia and the difficulties that people faced on a day to day basis. It’s an unpredictable story, so despite its somewhat cold sentiments you can’t help but keep turning the pages, wondering what spin Stalin and his officers can come up with next.(less)
This book takes place in imperial Russia!!! I love imperial Russia!!
Sorry that was a bit of an outburst but seriously I really do love books set in this time period. It is arguably one of the five best places you could set a novel. I just find it so magical and mysterious. There's also so much history coming out of Russia at that time (which I may or may not be obsessed with as well). This meant that right away, from the very first chapter I was completely enamoured with this story. It was also great to read this book in winter when my current surrounding of snow and cold matched the setting of the story.
Now since this setting already has a mysterious quality to it, the paranormal element just seemed to fit so perfectly. It didn't feel overly cheesy or silly. I actually think it added just the right touch of darkness and intrigue that kept me hanging on throughout the entire novel. This book combines a variety of supernatural creatures, including fairies, vampires and what are essentially zombies. All of which we've seen a lot of recently in the YA genre. But due to the historical nature of this tale and the mixing in of Russian folklore, it all felt very unique and fun to read about. In addition it was nice to see them all converge in one place and react to one another.
Robin Bridges' debut is an exciting and creative read. It combines one of my favourite settings, with a lot of standard paranormal characters and it does it in a way that feels fresh and original. To me this book is definitely a must read.(less)