Eva Folsom's Reviews > The Secret History of Moscow

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
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May 17, 2011

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Read in May, 2011

I picked this book up off of the freebie table at FOGcon. When I decided to sit down to read it, I was really pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing. Sedia's imagery can be just stunning and very emotionally evocative. I also loved the character sketches and development she does in the beginning of the book, introducing an adult character, showing them at formative moments in childhood, then bringing us back to the present adult.

For me, though, the book seriously sagged in the middle, where it seemed to devolve into Neil Gaiman-style pointing and gawking at mythological creatures suddenly come to literal life. I didn't see a big thematic connection with the storybook characters Sedia brings into the narrative, and they struck me as a sort of gaudy window dressing.

One of the characters suffers from a mental disorder, which made me cringe at first, but Sedia managed it gracefully without falling into the pitfalls of stereotyping and crazy-person-as-plot-device. I appreciated how she handled mental illness as a personal concern for the character and a social concern more broadly.

Sedia ties things up neatly enough at the end plot-wise, but the action part of the story all comes at the end and felt rather mechanical to me. I don't know whether this is Sedia's first novel. The prose was beautiful enough and the characters drawn compellingly and wrenchingly enough that I will probably read any future works of hers.
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