Title: The Secret History of Moscow
Author: Ekaterina Sedia
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Notes: Published by Prime Books in 2007
Why I Read It:I love urban fantasy inspired by mythology, so when somebody recommended this book - and I noticed it was only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle! - I had to buy it.
No surprise really - this was a great book. Not excellent, but still very, very good.
The underlying plot is driven by magic. People are being turned into birds, and two people - a girl who wants to save her now-avian sister, and a policeman assigned to the missing person's case - are on a quest to get them back. Their investigation leads underground, to a Moscow populated by outcasts beyond time - some former political dissidents; others, simple misfits who fell through the cracks. It's a powerful setting, made all the more real by the fact that underground, undeveloped Moscow has a rural fringe where the rusalka live. (I'm a geographer. I love that kind of detail.)
I also liked the Russian backdrop. I've always thought of myself as a mythology nerd, but clearly my education was more Western than I thought. It was a pleasure getting introduced to figures like Koschey the Deathless and Zemun the celestial cow, along with snippets of Russian history. I never felt their lack of familiarity detracted from the story. Other reviewers have commented that the plot starts meandering when many of these figures are introduced, and perhaps that's true. But the story regains focus towards the end, delivering a conclusion that is both powerful and unexpected. Well worth a read.