Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quick Review: "The Mirrored World" by Debra Dean

From Goodreads:  Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child--a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the course of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.

Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums. Revered as a soothsayer and a blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and its new Empress, Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses. In this evocative and elegantly written tale, Dean reimagines the intriguing life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, a patron saint of her city and one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures. This is an exploration of the blessings of loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.

My Thoughts:  I will read just about any work of historical fiction if it is set in Russia so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it.  It sounded really good and I loved Dean's The Madonnas of Leningrad so I figured I would love this too.  However, that just wasn't the case.

I didn't hate this book but I felt like it needed so much more.  It was very short and it seems as though it could have been longer.  There was a lot of story leading up to Xenia's transformation and then the story soon ended after that point. I had expected there to be more about her life helping the poor and it just wasn't there.  She seemed to become such an interesting character and yet the reader didn't really get to know her at that point.  I also was kind of disappointed that the narrator, Dasha, was not more developed.  I wanted to know more about her but despite being the narrator, she really was a minor, almost unimportant, character.

I do think the author provided some beautiful descriptions of Russia during the reign of Empress Elizabeth: I loved the scenes at the costume party.  I also like that this book made me want to know more about the real Xenia because I had never really heard of her before.  Otherwise, I was not super impressed with this book.  I just think that the story had so much potential and it just wasn't able to live up to it.  2 1/2 stars.

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