Book Review: The Age of Ice

Posted August 21, 2013 by Whitney in Review / 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Age of IceThe Age of Ice
Author J.M. Sidorova
Publisher Scribner
Publication Date July 23, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
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The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor--all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command--for her entertainment--these two are to be married, the union consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.

Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.

J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genre-bending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn--on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology--will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with a range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The premise of The Age of Ice sounded really interesting and the fact that it was inspired by a true story made it all the more intriguing, I went in excited to read the tale of ice but came out luke-warm.

I thought the writing was beautiful.  J.M. Sidorova always knew which word to use and created vivid portraits of Russia and the Arctic.   I also thought the characters and storyline were well-developed.  I liked the background we were given of Alexander, and without becoming Dr. Phil with his life defining moments, I felt his rocky relationships with his father and brother Andrei shaped him into the determined person he grew into.  In general, I preferred reading of his personal life rather than his professional.

Alexander was obsessed with getting an erection, and felt he really took advantage of Marie and Anna to “test out” his ability.  It disgusted me.  I realize it was a very different time but is procreation really that big of a deal, or does it just define “manliness”?  I also found his time in the Leib Guard a little tedious.  It really just didn’t do anything for me.  Perhaps it was just too militarism.  Also, and I don’t mean to sound like a prude but there was that bit about Alexander’s erectile dysfunction, being unable to satisfy the Empress.  This paragraph makes it sound like it is all about sex, and it really isn’t, that’s just my pet peeve.  The subject seemed unnecessary, and added little to the story.

Yes, the writing was beautiful and it had an interesting premise but I had difficulty with The Age of Ice, skimming the last sixty pages.  It felt too factual and was almost like reading a textbook.  In short, I always had a full night’s rest when I read The Age of Ice.


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