cover image Let the Dead Bury the Dead

Let the Dead Bury the Dead

Allison Epstein. Doubleday, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-54909-7

Epstein (A Tip for the Hangman) imagines an alternate history of Russia in the aftermath of the War of 1812 in this solid exploration of family loyalty and political revolution. After the war, Capt. Sasha Dorokhin of Russia’s Imperial Army returns to Catherine Palace in Tsarkskoe Selo, where his lover, Grand Duke Felix—the younger son of Tsar Sergei—has been banished from Saint Petersburg for questioning his father’s politics and harassing the palace maids. When Sasha discovers an unconscious woman, Sofia Azarova, outside the palace and carries her inside to safety, her seemingly otherworldly control over natural event prompts him to request her removal—but Felix allows her to stay. Sofia’s influence at court grows, but when she convinces Felix that a series of riots demanding land and money for the people have merit, the tsar becomes enraged, forcing Felix to flee with her—and driving a wedge between Felix and Sasha, who chooses duty over love when Felix joins the fictional Koalitsiya rebellion. Sofia, meanwhile, ignites a showdown between the palace and the people that has devastating consequences. Epstein’s unique retelling is richly enhanced by Slavic folklore, and the confusion between duty to family or country is expertly portrayed. Historical fiction fans will be spellbound. Agent: Bridget Smith, JABberwocky Literary. (Oct.)