The Age of Ice is a book in its own genre which took me completely by surprise.
I love reading Russian authors in English language because if the book is good I can recommend it to you, guys, and you might pick it up one day and learn something about the culture and rich history I grew up with. The Age of Ice is one of those books.
It describes the life of a man who is born as a freak of nature. He is absolutely immune to cold, and he has this weird affinity for ice and frost. He also can not die.
Because of his sheer lifespan Velitzyn starts his military career during the reign of Empress Elizaveta, gets into the thick of Pugachev's rebellion during Catherine The Great, becomes a part of a team exploring Siberia, and let me tell you - the journey he undertakes is harsh and gripping. Its hardships turn him into a broken, quiet and dark man...
While he is slowly aging in hist estate mourning the death of the only woman he loved, Napoleon invades Russia, and he undergoes a metamorphosis again becoming a sort of a Father Frost symbol of Russian partisans and only developing consciousness again as a younger version of himself in Paris after Napoleon's fall.
The fascinating tale doesn't stop there, because to escape the coldness within himself Alexander runs to a hot and dry Afghanistan where he becomes again embroiled into thick political intrigues of a Great Game between British and Russian Empire.
Little does he know that he will only see his beloved Russia again just before the Revolution while hiding under a facade of a British industrialist and falling crazy in love with a rich Russian girl...
I will have to stop the spoilers here, but bear in mind that the story reads as a recollection from Veliltzyn's letters and diaries to himself and presumably he is still alive right now...
This is a complex, slow and rich in detail historical fiction from those parts of the world you would not necessarily know much about. J.M. Sidorova must have done an enormous research because the historical details and atmosphere are just stunning, but at the forefront of it all is one man's struggle against the time and his own nature. It's melancholic and stark and very Russian.
I hope The Age of Ice will find its way to the right audience, because while I personally think this book is wonderful I can see that a lot of people will struggle with its unique style. Recommended.