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The Secret History of Moscow

Every city contains secret places Moscow in the tumultuous 1990s is no different its citizens seeking safety in a world below the streets a dark cavernous world of magic weeping trees and albino jackdaws where exiled pagan deities and faery tale creatures w. I don t know a lot about Moscow or even Russia in general If I had free time I would devote some of it to feeling guilty for this gap in my knowledge Some day I might even get around to rectifying it by reading some informative books on the subject rather than fantasy which I m given to understand is not always 100% factual odd that But not today No today I ll talk about The Secret History of Moscow in all its dark and magical gloryEkaterina Sedia writes fairy tales The Alchemy of Stone is a fairy tale about a clockwork woman who wants to be a real girl The Secret History of Moscow is a fairy tale about a woman who out of place and out of touch with our own world uncovers a secret one while searching for her sister When Masha turns into a jackdaw after giving birth in their bathroom Galina wants to know why Along the way she meets a cop who has been investigating similar disappearances They in turn meet a street artist who leads them into another world underground where the detritus of Moscow s past has slunkI m not sure what to do with The Secret History of Moscow I m not sure what to say about it or really how I feel about it It was OK Sedia kept me interested kept me wanting to know how it would all turn out But now that I m finished it I discover that it has left almost no impression with me That makes it difficult to reviewWherefrom this malaise I blame the structure of the narrative the way Sedia chooses to tell this story Galina Yakov and Fyodor waste no time discovering the underground a twisted sort of fairyland where gods go to wither and die And then they stay there For a while They sort of loaf around an ersatz inn chatting with Yakov s grandfather and learning a little about the locals Is it interesting I guess But it s a lull one that belies the otherwise urgent beat of the plot drum There are people missing birds flying through reflections in puddles to other worlds I wanted to jump up and yell You have to get a move on I wasn t reminded of it while reading but as I write this review I m spurred to compare this to Bridge of Birds I m not sure why perhaps the fairy tale ualities of both tales but the latter definitely has pulse pounding action even as it fully embraces whimsy and wonderThe Secret History of Moscow on the other hand sort of plods along The characters are cool even sympathetic The deposed and dispossessed mythological figures are also fascinating Sedia draws from a diverse range of backgrounds creating a kind of mythological mosaic a sampling of ideas from the various cultures and times that have called Russia home I wish she did them all justice but the book is so short that we get only the slightest glimpse into these characters and what they representGalina s choice at the end was a good way to end the book too It makes sense given what we know of her but at the same time I wish we had spent time with her in Moscow seen of her life Does she have any friends No one who will really miss her Was her life really that one note Sedia writes well but if she were an artist she would own only one really wide paintbrush and paint in bold and sweeping strokes across a smoky ashen canvasI liked the book but I don t feel enthusiastic about it It s competent but not compelling I don t mind tossing my recommendation in there if you think this is your thing because there is nothing outright poor about The Secret History of Moscow But it didn t excite me either

summary The Secret History of Moscow

A policeman investigating a rash of recent disappearances Their search will take them to the underground realm of hidden truths and archetypes to find themselves caught between reality and myth past and present honor and betrayal the secret history of Mosc. The Secret History of MoscowEkaterina SediaPrime BooksKat Sedia s new book it came out sometime in 2007 but my reading schedule is slow as molasses The Secret History of Moscow is an intriguing novel about set in both the normal world of Moscow in the 1990s and in the strange underworld beneath it where both mythical figures from Moscow s past rub shoulders with Muscovites and visitors from many eras When Maria the sister of the main character Galina mysteriously turns into a jackdaw and flies away Galina is compelled to seek out the hidden world beneath and around herSuperficially this novel is very similar to Neil Gaiman s Neverwhere as Gaiman in his usual modest way suggests in a review of his own Sedia I think builds on Gaiman s ideas of a mythical world mirroring and underneath our modern one populating her mythic Moscow with historical figures gypsies Jews from the pogroms Napoleanic soldiers and Tajik warriors and strange and curious creatures from stories like the voidyanoi rusalki and Koschei the Deathless The three main characters Galina a woman who works as an English translator Yakov the cop and Fyodor the itinerant artist are normal people who become aware of the strangeness that s disrupted their lives They ve seen things people turning into blackbirds before their eyes or watched family members vanish and are the only ones compelled to get to the bottom of what s going on It took me a few chapters of character introduction to get into the book but once things were set up I could barely put the book down I didn t just want to know what happened next I was sucked into the narrative I almost didn t want it to end and was cursing the book was only 300 pagesSedia cuts out nearly everything for a breezy writing style that is fast paced and extremely easy to read only to come to jarring stops when she pauses to flesh out a character met along the way with their own story This it turns out is an extremely good thing Sedia s strengths at least in this story is creating incredibly engaging and interesting characters in a short amount of time And with each of those characters one gets a sense of the inevitable change of history around themAs much as people in reviews I ve seen have focused on the Russian ness or Moscow ness of the story I don t actually see that as a strong point of the book For all the fascinating observations of the changes of Russian style from the crown Peter the Great refused to wear to traffic snarls and the motives of car ownership in modern Moscow one doesn t actually get a sense of Moscow as a character Part I think is that descriptions throughout the book are notoriously spare I never got a sense of the personality of the setting around me or its characterBut what I did get from this book was a real sense of the struggle of otherwise normal people in events wildly beyond their control And in character after character outsiders forced to view the normal events of a city from a distant almost solitary perspective This I think is much universal I d even go so far as to say it s a primary focus of modern fantasy and what sets apart bad fantasy which only offers an escape for those who feel outside modern culture and good fantasy which offers empathy and understanding and uses tools of mythology towards those ends It s something Gaiman has always been uniuely good at and is a reason why his writing is so popular Sedia s Secret History builds on this and I want to shout from the rooftops about this novel It s just that great More people need to be reading and talking about this book

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Hisper strange tales to those who would listen Galina is a young woman caught like her contemporaries in the seeming lawlessness of the new Russia In the midst of this chaos her sister Masha turns into a jackdaw and flies away prompting Galina to join Yakov. 25When I saw the reviews for this book I saw it discussed as a mixture of Neverwhere and American Gods two books I love from Neil Gaiman And while the comparison is a fair one when it comes to the premise of the story it doesn t really live up to the comparison in executionI wanted to love this book It s right up my alley and it s a book that I should ve loved but while it was interesting it just sort of fell flat I think mostly it s because the characters never seemed really developed to me Whether mortal or mythical they didn t breatheAlso the pacing The first part of the story slowly unfolds as we learn the stories of the various players as they sort of meander around life and then on their uests but then the ending sort of happens all at once and I kept thinking I was missing pages or something because it all came together too neatly without any real rhyme or reason getting there It sort of just happenedThere were good things to it I really liked learning about both Russian history and mythology and seeing the depiction of life in Russia at the time was definitely one of the highlights of the bookBut overall I m just left with the let down feeling that it could ve been so much better than it wasAgain it s not bad really it just well maybe my expectations were just too high shrugsETA I originally bumped my 25 up to 3 but I realized that the 3 was left over for liking the premise and wanting to like it but if I compare it to other 3s it just doesn t hold up So I m changing it to a downgrade instead of a bump Still 25 either way really but ya know


10 thoughts on “The Secret History of Moscow

  1. says:

    The Secret History of Moscow is judging by the wide range of reviews the literary euivalent of an optical illusionYou might read it and feel disconnected from the characters as if you were living in a grey ice slushy day with errands to run that mean wet boots and snow down your neck Or you might read it and see the characters as part of a cultural mosaic set against the background of gentle fat flakes of snow falling o

  2. says:

    I really want to talk about crack babies to talk about how I feel about this book That's what I'm thinking about Mariel they are born into a disrupted world and missing a chemicalspiritualwhatever balance and then I think crack babies 'cause my attention span is shot and I'm a half thought kinda person on good days I'd take a picture of my mind map and the connect the dots if I could They show a picture of a dog's head

  3. says:

    I don’t know a lot about Moscow or even Russia in general If I had free time I would devote some of it to feeling guilty f

  4. says:

    The Secret History of Moscow reads like a fusion of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and American Gods only set in Moscow and populated by Slavic deitiesOn the one hand I can't say that I'm much enamoured by any of our protagonists which is not to say

  5. says:

    It does help to have either a knowledge of Russian Fairy Tales or a source to look them up in when reading this bookThat said this is a good book Sedia tells the story of Galina who is looking for her missing sister It is wonderful to read a fairy tale influenced novel where the women actually get along and whe

  6. says:

    25When I saw the reviews for this book I saw it discussed as a mixture of Neverwhere and American Gods two books I love from Neil Gaiman And while the comparison is a fair one when it comes to the premise of the story it do

  7. says:

    I really wanted to like this but I just couldn't do it The concept sounded fascinating people turning into jackdaws a hidden mythological unde

  8. says:

    DNF 30%Read on May 05 2015Not my cup of tea I am a huge fan of Slavic Myths and legends but this book was slightly too dark and depressing I expected magic wonder of a fairy tale feel to it Why cruel World? Why?

  9. says:

    The Secret History of MoscowEkaterina SediaPrime BooksKat Sedia's new book it came out sometime in 2007 but my reading schedule is slow as molasses The Secret History of Moscow is an intriguing novel about set in b

  10. says:

    I loved it I'm even tempted to rate it closer to a 910 Probably it was easier for me a native of Eastern Europe to relate with the slavic myt

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