The Age of Ice: A Novel

The Age of Ice: A Novel

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by J. M. Sidorova
     
 

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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… See more details below

Overview

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 relationship 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 genrebending 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 an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sidorova’s sprawling debut opens in 1740 on the frozen Russian tundra, where twins Prince Andrei and narrator Prince Alexander Velitzyn are conceived under unusual circumstances. For her amusement, Empress Anna Ioanovna demands a wedding for the twins’ court-jester parents, whose nuptial bed is made of ice. “I was born of cold copulation,” relays Alexander, “white-fleshed and waxy like the crust of fat on beef broth left outside in winter.” The twins’ mother perishes after their birth and their father returns to Moscow unable to shake the stigma of his time at court. The Empress’s whim has a profound effect as Alexander grasps the startling reality that he is impervious to cold (anyone who attempts to get close will encounter a frosty exterior) . Keeping his secret, Alexander sadly drifts apart from his brother during their military duty. Searching for scientific reasons behind his physical anomaly, Alexander joins famed Captain Joseph Billings on an Arctic expedition. His physical abnormality acts as a preservative and carries him across the globe and through the centuries, where he has a chance meeting with writer Mary Shelley. Sidorova’s lyrical prose complements her protagonist’s fantastical tale of isolation on his mythic journey. Agent: Seth Fishman, Gernert Company. (July)
Booklist
"Sidorova’s imaginative and densely detailed first novel mingles historical and speculative fiction.... Characters, real and fictional, and [Alexander's] continual yearning for connections enrich the tale with depth and meaning."
Tea Obreht
"Jeweled with the kind of narrative intricacies and heights of fancy that transform a good story into a sensory glut, in this mesmerizing debut, Sidorova reduces you to a primal state of readership, casting you into darkness so vast that you have no choice but to press on and discover what about it feels so familiar. The Age of Ice rekindles every far-flung childhood memory you have of what it means to experience a great book."
Téa Obreht
"Jeweled with the kind of narrative intricacies and heights of fancy that transform a good story into a sensory glut, in this mesmerizing debut, Sidorova reduces you to a primal state of readership, casting you into darkness so vast that you have no choice but to press on and discover what about it feels so familiar. The Age of Ice rekindles every far-flung childhood memory you have of what it means to experience a great book."
Paul Park
"In this marvelous first novel, J.M. Sidorova combines the various properties of ice—its grotesque mutations, its flaws and cracks, its rotting swells, its bitter and consoling beauty—and builds them layer by layer into a metaphor for the emotional and political forces that encase us and the world. Ice binds the characters and shatters them apart, and the far reaches of the novel—Siberia, St. Petersburg, Paris, Herat, Calcutta, and New York over hundreds of years—are spanned as if by bridges of ice. Sidorova has created a tale at once familiar and foreign, thawed out of history and yet still fresh.”
James Oliver
“It is rare, but sometimes a book wanders in from the cold, sweeps you off your feet, and kicks you in the face… The Age of Ice is a wonderful, impressive, and satisfying novel. Calling it the best epic fantasy novel that I have read in years is hyperbolic, but not far from the mark. This novel has plenty of appeal for readers on either side of the genre-literary divide.”
Annie Smith
"The Age of Ice is an incredible journey, in all senses of the word."
Karen Joy Fowler
The Age of Ice is a big book—big in ambition and big in achievement. From magical opening to lyrical close, Sidorova moves with ease and authority across the globe and through the centuries. The writing is crystalline and the adventure never ends. Everything you could want in a novel.”
Karl Iagnemma
“Packed with incident large and small, and alive with rich, memorable characters, J.M. Sidorova’s novel is a lush, lyrical saga about science and pseudoscience, history and fantasy, love and war—and cold weather. You won’t read this novel; you’ll surrender to it.”
Rudy Rucker
"I'm in awe. The Age of Ice is a luminous vision, a waking dream, utterly delicious. Sidorova is the best new writer I’ve come across in years."
Ionia Martin
"If you are going to read this book (and I recommend that you do) take some time away from life. Find a quiet place, and devote your mind to the story. It will consume you, amaze you and remind you that there are authors out there who use common words to create uncommon magic."
From the Publisher
"Jeweled with the kind of narrative intricacies and heights of fancy that transform a good story into a sensory glut, in this mesmerizing debut, Sidorova reduces you to a primal state of readership, casting you into darkness so vast that you have no choice but to press on and discover what about it feels so familiar. The Age of Ice rekindles every far-flung childhood memory you have of what it means to experience a great book."

"In this marvelous first novel, J.M. Sidorova combines the various properties of ice—its grotesque mutations, its flaws and cracks, its rotting swells, its bitter and consoling beauty—and builds them layer by layer into a metaphor for the emotional and political forces that encase us and the world. Ice binds the characters and shatters them apart, and the far reaches of the novel—Siberia, St. Petersburg, Paris, Herat, Calcutta, and New York over hundreds of years—are spanned as if by bridges of ice. Sidorova has created a tale at once familiar and foreign, thawed out of history and yet still fresh.”

“It is rare, but sometimes a book wanders in from the cold, sweeps you off your feet, and kicks you in the face… The Age of Ice is a wonderful, impressive, and satisfying novel. Calling it the best epic fantasy novel that I have read in years is hyperbolic, but not far from the mark. This novel has plenty of appeal for readers on either side of the genre-literary divide.”

"The Age of Ice is an incredible journey, in all senses of the word."

The Age of Ice is a big book—big in ambition and big in achievement. From magical opening to lyrical close, Sidorova moves with ease and authority across the globe and through the centuries. The writing is crystalline and the adventure never ends. Everything you could want in a novel.”

“Packed with incident large and small, and alive with rich, memorable characters, J.M. Sidorova’s novel is a lush, lyrical saga about science and pseudoscience, history and fantasy, love and war—and cold weather. You won’t read this novel; you’ll surrender to it.”

"I'm in awe. The Age of Ice is a luminous vision, a waking dream, utterly delicious. Sidorova is the best new writer I’ve come across in years."

"If you are going to read this book (and I recommend that you do) take some time away from life. Find a quiet place, and devote your mind to the story. It will consume you, amaze you and remind you that there are authors out there who use common words to create uncommon magic."

Seattle magazine
“Arresting… Influenced by writers Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, Sidorova incorporates science fiction and magical realism into her historical tales.”
"Books on the Nightstand" podcast - Ann Kingman
“Just beautiful… A very special read… with a bit of magic and a lot of gorgeous prose.”
Denver Post
"Evocative... [Sidorova's] detailed, compelling prose lingers on the brain."
Los Angeles Times - Elizabeth Hand
“Ambitious … An impressive debut by a writer who draws her own magic from some of the darker, and colder, chapters of Russia's complex history."
Seattle Times - Nisi Shawl
“Velitzyn is an appealing character: handsome, shy, passionate yet reflective…. Knowledge, affection and skill combine to draw readers in and drive them forward through frozen steppe and burgeoning city, through trading post, fortress, intrigue-riddled embassy, sweltering prison and all the myriad settings in this eccentric jewel of a novel."
Tulsa World
"Exceptional prose.... Amazing."
Examiner.com
"Deftly written.... With its classical style and superior character development, the novel draws the reader into a world of intrigue and suspense... There are few novels that have caught my imagination like this one."
Locus
"Alexander’s sharp observations – and the author’s ability to plunge him into the thick of things, fraught with emotions far more intense than ennui – display a remarkable power."
Téa Obreht
"Jeweled with the kind of narrative intricacies and heights of fancy that transform a good story into a sensory glut, in this mesmerizing debut, Sidorova reduces you to a primal state of readership, casting you into darkness so vast that you have no choice but to press on and discover what about it feels so familiar. The Age of Ice rekindles every far-flung childhood memory you have of what it means to experience a great book."
Strange Horizons - Paul Kincaid
“The chief glory of this book has nothing whatsoever to do with how much it does or does not adhere to genre boundaries. The real delight in reading this novel is the language. It is rich and vivid, full of unexpected descriptions that turn out to be just right… It is, in short, beautiful… An affecting love story, a stirring war novel, a novel of scientific endeavor, a tale of exploration, a tragedy…. A superb debut.”
Library Journal
This captivating debut by a Moscow-born biology professor begins with a chilly curse. Twins born of exiled parents in 18th-century Russia discover they have special talents for withstanding cold. Separated by jealousy and rival military careers, the twins seek separate fortunes and families. The younger twin, Alexander, thrives in cold and travels across the decades through Russia, Siberia, France, and most of Europe. With an inexplicably long life, he stumbles into the Great Game in Asia, finds himself in bondage in Persia, and helps the British invade Afghanistan. Surviving into the 20th century, he plays his part in both world wars and starts a refrigeration business in Singapore. Alexander’s mystical success with ice and longevity only bring him more questions about his origin, his family, and his ability to love.

Verdict Sidorova’s sweeping scope is impressive. Romance, warfare, science, history, and exploration all take turns in this epic work that spans centuries and empires. Unlimited by genre boundaries, it is sure to delight awe all types of readers. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]—Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Russian-born professor Sidorova puts her knowledge of her homeland's history to work in this novel that follows the odd story of a man whose life is synonymous with cold. When Prince Alexander Velitzyn's father, Mikhail, helped conceive him and his twin brother, Andrei, in 18th-century Russia, it was out of anything but love: After displeasing the empress, Mikhail and a hunchbacked jester were thrown together to spend the night in a palace made entirely of ice, down to the bed and curtains. Twins Alexander and Andrei were the result of the forced union. Instead of being close, as twins oftentimes are, Andrei seems to take great delight in taunting his brother, while Alexander remains devoted to Andrei. In an epic tale that starts with the boys' births in 1740 and follows Alexander through his exceedingly long life (the main character and narrator lives into the 21st century), Sidorova explores cold as a narrative theme: Alexander has a peculiar lack of bodily warmth and has a tolerance to ice and snow that's not shared with the rest of the human race. In this uneven tale, Alexander takes readers through the reigns of Catherine and Peter in his homeland, traverses the coldest places imaginable, spans Europe and ends up in modern-day America. The journey is disconcerting. Although Sidorova ably presents life in 18th-century Russia, her protagonist is difficult to like. The prose often slips back and forth in tenses, and the emphasis on the lead character's coldness verges on literary nagging. Even more problematic: 18th-century Russian characters speak in modern slang, which the author mixes with the more formal language of the time. Fans of historical fiction with a supernatural component may like this novel, but the climate-immune protagonist and his endless, often nonsensical ramblings will leave more literal-minded readers feeling cold.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451692730
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
07/23/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
765,644
File size:
9 MB

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