Sunday, December 30, 2007
The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia is an absolutely unique and wonderful urban fantasy which incorporates Russian fairytales.
Galina a young woman watches her sister turn into a bird and fly away. She is left with her sister's baby and mother to watch. Galina tries to get help and eventually ends up with Yakov a police inspector trying to find a slew of missing people who have also turned into jackdaws, pigeons, and owls then simply disappeared.
Thus begins a strange urban fairytale where eventually Galina ends up in an underground fairyland Moscow underneath the real city. There we readers get to meet many strange Russian small spirits, small gods, and fairies. There is Father Frost, Zhemun the Celestial Cow, and Khoschey the Deathless. These are truly wonderful and strange characters.
The city itself reminds me of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or China Mieville's Un Lundun. It is a deathless land of the forgotten.
After getting help in the underground city, they must return to the surface travelling through the dark forest under the city of Moscow, crossing the black river and meeting the ferryman, and eventually making it up top. There are helpers with them. I won't list all of them. It would spoil the surprise. A few of them are a white jackdaw with the soul of a thug trapped in it, rats that can form into a bear, and a gypsy girl.
If you like urban fantasy, or fairytales this is an excellent read. There is a sardonic, melancholy, funny quality to the book unlike anything else I have ever read. The setting is truly unique. The writing uses memories and evokes feeling far better than most novels which I have read.
If I gave stars, this would be the North Star.