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Avilova's novel demonstrates an impressive grasp of Russian literature and history, but fails to fully bring to life its world of ancient texts. Bert Renes, a Slavonic scholar, is doing research in Moscow in the early 1980s when he discovers that an intriguing 16th-century manuscript is missing from the state archives. The manuscript, Revelation of Fire, contains the teachings of Eularious, one of the Cenergites line of monks who for centuries remained untouched by the antiheresy movements. As Bert and archivist Nadya Demyanova begin to uncover the secrets of Revelation, their fascination with the manuscript's past grows, and Avilova weaves in historical accounts of the manuscript's past owners, including the self-proclaimed "first female Cenergite" and a pair of orphan twins who mysteriously disappeared. The depictions of Cold War-era Moscow are convincingly dreary and wonderfully paranoia-inducing, though Avilova has less luck with the historical set pieces, which feel airless. Brainy historical Russian mysticism deployed at a page-turning pace isn't for everyone, but a chunk of devotees will dig it. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.