"The Age of Ice" is a fairy tale but at the same time it isn't. Don't count too much on the cover blurb for this one because, as several reviewers have said, it was fairly inaccurate as to the actual contents. But, having seen my fair share of lying book synopses I approached this with an open mind and willed the book to take me where it will.
In all honesty I was into the book during the first half. As a person of Eastern European background I found it fascinating to, again, read about characters from Russia and the descriptions of life, the city, and other aspects. This book may be difficult for people who struggle with understanding the Russian culture, in particularly when it comes to people's names, and that adds to the whole not-for-everyone verdict I drew up. Nevertheless, the first half of the book was exciting, from the very beginning of the conception of the twin princes. Then as soon as the ice expedition to the North of Russia began is where my interest somewhat faltered.
I love books that give description and detail BUT as long as they keep me interested and don't crush the already existing notions. In this book there was often the case of a detail OVERLOAD. To add to that the plot often became jumbled and Alexander's narrator voice poured out too many things at once. And once this problem started it persisted until the very end of the book, drowning all the interesting details and actually worthwhile observations when it comes to human emotions and various aspects of life.
And then the tune of the book changed, yet again, when the reader discovers that Alexander somehow ended up in Paris in the beginning of the 1800s. The explanation provided by the author, about Napoleon's army and how Prince Alex ended up there, was at the point implausible to me and this was the only moment in the book where I felt the spell of a modern, unusual fairy tale Sidorova worked so hard to spin was broken. It was somewhat restored with the rather wonderful incorporation of some actual historical figures, my favourite of those that were included being Mary Shelley, but when it came to Afghanistan the story took even more of a turn and my interest dwindled because of the confusion and overload of detail and action.
I didn't quite understand what it was about Alexander that kept him living for several centuries. I can't say I felt sorry for him either. His eagerness to pounce on people - Anna, Elizabeth, to name a few - struck me as somewhat illogical and too impulsive, without any kind of counterbalance when it came to sitting and thinking things through. Even some of his thought processes and his obsession with thermometers at one point in the story raised my eyebrow. I can't say I sympathized with him, although some of the characters, such as his godson/nephew, I understood and his actions, though impulsive or odd, made me connect better with him that the main character. Others, like Anna, I got agitated by and then stopped paying attention to.
So this fairy tale is not even a fairy tale then. It at times makes play on the Old Man Frost story as well as brings up "snigurochka" at a couple points, but beyond that this is more of a story that is a somewhat historical fiction with some romance on the side. The next time I read this, or whenever I reread it really, I'll know to approach this more allegorically, because there are some rather fine thoughts in the writing, like when Alexander is found in his ice cocoon after staying there for several months. The problem is that these thought, like the premise of the story, are hidden under layers and layers of icy confusion and some swirving from the original laid out story. The ending, sadly, wasn't as satisfying as anticipated but it left room to keep thinking after the book was finished and being placed on the shelf.
Would I recommend this book? Yes.
Will you enjoy this book? Certain aspects of it I'm sure, but probably not all.
Is there something to take away from it? For sure.
If you're looking for a (far cry from)/change when it comes to fairy tales and "whimsical" books on humans and life, try this one. If you're not familiar with Russian culture already then you might struggle, but the author's note on the back does help a bit. But really, let this book sweep you in whichever direction it will. Don't expect much and you'll receive more.