Jeffrey's Reviews > The Winter Queen

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin
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's review
Oct 08, 2011

The descriptions of this book I saw before reading suggested it was a "mystery." That's a bit misleading, I think, since although the plot does mostly center on a mystery, or rather series of mysteries (first a strange suicide, then a murder, then an ever-widening conspiracy), it's really more of an adventure or even fantasy story. It includes, for instance, not only the obligatory scene where the hero scales the wall of a house by using a drain pipe and ivy, but also a scene where he's trapped in a chair by metal bands that come out of the back of the chair. He is also nearly the victim of a pioneering form of electric lobotomy, and is very nearly killed at least seven different times, including by stabbing, drowning, a bomb exploding (twice), and nearly being shot (at least three different times -- four, if you count the time he shoots himself in the head thinking the gun is loaded). There are also a series of double-crosses and revealed secret allegiances (various characters turn out to be part of the conspiracy) that, after a while, start to feel manipulative. The ending is especially grisly and crudely manipulative in this same way, and at first it left me not wanting to read any more in this series.

But after a week or two, I am curious to see how the series proceeds, and how some of the loose ends from this first novel are tied up (if they are). Overall, the story was good, if a little manipulative and at times fantastic in a way I found a little silly, and the writing was brisk and enjoyable. The book has good historical detail without taking itself too seriously, a rare combination. It is also quite funny at times, especially Zurov's various comments after he saves Fandorin in London. So overall I found this to be an enjoyable reading experience and am looking forward to reading more in the series.

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