Monday, September 29, 2008

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia

With The Secret History of Moscow, Ekaterina Sedia explores the underworld, Moscow's past and how it relates to a current mystery. Galina's sister, Masha, has disappeared after giving birth to her child in the bathroom. The only semblance of Masha that Galina can find after discovering the baby is a Jackdaw, a black crow, perched near her apartment, though Galina does have a history of schizophrenia. She turns to the police in search of her sister and meets a young man named Yakov who works for the force. As they begin their search they discover that more and more of the town is disappearing. Upon meeting a street artist named Fyodor, they realize that something strange is indeed happening. Fyodor brings them to a puddle of water where they witness tons of black birds flying into the puddle, through a door that is reflected in the puddle and disappearing. It's become apparent that something strange is indeed happening here and it's beginning to seem that Moscow's population is turning into birds. The trio find a puddle of their own and on good faith jump into it landing in a world that one can only dream. They are in the underground of Moscow where people who have passed long ago still live and where the old gods mingle with each other debating the fate of the world above. It is with the help of these old gods that they hope to once again find Masha and discover the cause of the strange occurrences above and there are some incredible tales told along the way as we meet each of the gods. I had extremely mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely loved the idea of it and I loved Ekaterina Sedia's writing. She has a great gift with words. However, the execution fell short for me. I never truly felt attached to any of the characters (though I must admit I enjoyed Zemun the cow). The plot of the story seemed to be the central character and the actual characters were never truly fleshed out. This could be because she had so many of them. I find it hard to really enjoy a book when the cast of characters are so large. They begin to get confused in my simple little head. She also continually told little stories throughout the book in the middle of the action. Sometimes they were about the gods, sometimes about the characters' past, sometimes about the history of Moscow. This didn't work so well for me either. Once again, I'd get confused and lost during these. While I enjoyed the stories that she told, I often saw them as an interruption in the main story. So if I had to rate this one it would probably be a 2.5/5...right there in the middle. Great story, short on the execution.

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