Tuomala’s first book since her 2010 debut, Erekos, is a powerful and meticulously realized work of historical fantasy tying Russian sociopolitical movements to legends of dragons. A century after the dragons defected from Russia to the Turks, the Tarasov family still guards Russia’s borders, facing the Ottomans’ living weapons with hot lead and cold determination. But the family has been split asunder. With an unexpected threat looming amid ongoing questions about the dragons’ true nature, the Tarasov brothers and sister must overcome a past fraught with betrayal to secure peace on their land. Tuomala’s neatest trick is in building her world around existing events, such as the 1861 liberation of the serfs; she also lends extraordinary complexity and depth of emotion to her protagonists. Each Tarasov sibling is fully formed and easy to empathize with, making it difficult to choose sides when the trio are at one another’s throats. And Tuomala gives readers a rare treat: a queer heroine whose sexuality is merely part of a rich tapestry of characterization. This sophomore offering cements Tuomala’s reputation as an important current voice in the genre.
As mysteries abound and loyalties shift, Liza, Petya and Kesha must figure out who is trustworthy, and if they can even trust each other. The three siblings are at the core of the story, but the supporting characters are interesting and important as well. While the plot is complex, the author balances all the story elements very well, and the world is fully realized. Great writing, dragons, and interesting characters makes this book highly recommended for all fantasy collections.
Scenes in the Russian capitals are spot-on historical fiction, evocative and real. Kesha stumbles upon hidden, forbidden dragon texts and learns the language of shrieks and screams, writes messages in the snow for low-flying dragons to read. Did you know dragons write poetry? The dragons are very well-drawn so you can believe in them, too. The scenes in Turkey are brief but interesting. I would have liked more. In a sequel?
Definitely worth the read — if you don’t mind dragons.