Sedia (The Alchemy of Stone) superbly blends novel of manners, alternate history, and le Carré–style espionage with a dash of superheroes and steampunk. In a Russia in which the Decembrist revolution succeeded and Constantine never abdicated, 18-year-old Sasha is unexpectedly enrolled at university thanks to a challenge her aunt Eugenia issues to Constantine. Her initial concerns about sexism fade to the background once she realizes that Chinese students are vanishing. After a visiting British student named Jack, who has strange powers, helps Sasha prevent a kidnapping, she learns of a plot that could lead Russia into war with China, England, or both. Sedia assembles a nice list of supporting characters—the forceful Eugenia, the Russian soldiers and Chinese fur traders Sasha befriends, sinister spymaster Florence Nightingale—and Sasha's often frustrated but always practical narrative voice smoothly carries the novel to its satisfying conclusion. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011 Release date: 07/01/2011 Genre: Fiction
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