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The Age of Ice Hardcover – 23 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 398 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company (23 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451692714
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451692716
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,363,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Prince Alexander M. Velitzyn and his twin brother, Prince Andrei, begin their life due to something between an unpleasant joke and a punishment. Their father, Prince Mikhail Velitzyn, was forced to act as a jester for Empress Anna Ioannovna, as punishment for an alleged affair with a Catholic noblewoman. The Empress decided to force a jester's wedding between Prince Mikhail and a female jester at the Court - a humpback named Avdotia Buzheninova. Sealed in a wedding chamber made of ice, the couple almost died - Avdotia did, in fact, die nine months later after producing the twins she conceived that day in St Petersburg. As soon as he was able, their father fled to his family estate to remarry, taking his sons with him.

This beautifully written story is told from the point of view of Prince Alexander, product of that bizarre union. He soon discovers that his strange beginnings have left him with a tragic ability to create ice. Not only is he impervious to the cold, but he creates feelings of freezing in others, which leaves him distant from other people and resentful of his inability to be physically close to others. Alexander also lives a (very) long life, which enables the author to take him through a long period of Russian history. We see him join the Elite Lieb Guards, travel to where his brother, sister in law and nephew are involved in a siege, join an expedition in search of the Northeast Passage and more. Alongside Alexander, we witness the time of the French Revolution, of Napoleon, visit the Far East and more, as history unfolds before him. Many real people play cameo roles in this novel - such as Mary Shelley - with nods to literature and history, which readers will enjoy. It is a novel with enormous scope and beautiful prose; an unusual book and a love letter to ice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An amazing writer 23 July 2013
By Ionia Martin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Assessing this book for review is somewhat like trying to tell the entire world history is less than 300 words. It isn't possible. Reading this novel is a journey through a world of history and amazing wonders and is a truly beautiful read. If you are into books that slowly and carefully unfold with excellent character development, "the Age of Ice" has you covered.

This is not an action filled book where things happen a mile a minute. The writing seems somewhat reserved and you never feel particularly close to the main character, but you never really have the desire to give up on him either. There is always a shield up between him and the reader, although I can't help, based on the story, but feel that this was intentional.

The main character suffers from a "cold" condition, where any time he is riled up, either positively or negatively, he experiences a full body cold that allows him to hold snow without it melting and makes his desire for a normal relationship more than impossible. The idea that the author wrote his character somewhat impersonally matches that theme perfectly. I found that I, as the reader, spent my time trying to get inside his head and feel closer to him but continually came up short, which made me feel frustrated, just as the character did as he searched for someone to be close to. Well played, J.M. Sidorova.

This book spans a long period of time, and while I found the complicated tale interesting and well written, there were times when I felt my mind wander a bit while reading. The writing itself is solid. The author has an amazing grasp on how to use the proper language to evoke emotion, and the dialogue is excellent, although written in the same second hand delivery that makes it feel much less personal.

While I did have moments of wandering mind, there were many sections of this novel where I completely forgot myself and became so bound in the story that I could do nothing else but read, hoping the eventual result would be a happy one for the character that I had been with for the duration.

The ending of the book was a bit odd for me, and the reason why I have decided to go with four stars rather than five. I don't want to include a spoiler, so I will proceed cautiously. This book, as I mentioned above, spans a longer time period than most. When it catches up to the more recent history of the world, the character makes a decision about how he will carry on, and I just didn't feel that it quite worked with the rest of the book. It may have just been a personal expectation, but I felt the end struggled a bit to match the previous parts of this incredible Russian literature. I do give the author a lot of credit for dealing with important issues of environmental impact.

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.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the Publisher.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"The age of delicate senses had not yet dawned, nerves had not been discovered." 24 July 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alexander was conceived to parents sealed in an ice place by decree of Empress Anna Ionnovna, ruler of Russia. His father, a prince, had been disgraced by being designated a court jester. His mother, a humpback was a jester by birthright and died giving birth to Alexander and Andrei, his twin. Remarkably, this setting for our journey in magical realism was entirely possible in the marginally civilized world of Russia in 1740. Indeed, this novel,spanning decades, is embedded in the miraculous but true progression and regression of Russia. The ornate writing itself bears the mark of an intellect searching for meaning and knowledge in this huge country of extremes. As quoted in my title, introspection was not highly regarded and only men entering and completing 25 years of military duty were deemed to have grown ou of the official title of juvenile.

Alexander had been into privilege and ease as a prince of the realm. His natural ease and physical beauty had earned him a place in the guard of the Empress herself. Indeed he was in that group who overthrew the czar to put Catherine the Great on the throne in their regard for an Empress ruling the country. He gradually learns that shades of passion come to render him freezing to the point he will eventually kill anyone in his embrace, while he feels no change of temperature.

In a world of extreme emotions, he must shield himself from lust, rage, and grief. There is no one to guide him and no one to understand. He cannot even trust another person with his secret. His only eternally constant companion is the ecstasy of ice, the transformation of all life other than his to to a crystalline death. The prose can become exhausting at some points, but the author always rescues the reader from the brink metaphysical burn out into the hands of a compelling story. These decades of Russian history are consumed with extremes heroism to depths of ignominy. He participates in the heartless splendor of Catherine the Great, the search through Siberia for the Northeast passage, and the Napoleonic Wars. Seemingly immortal, his story stretches through every extreme.

In his encounters with ice, an allegory on the transformation of the world emerges. As water is the base of life, is ice a part of every cycle? "A story is a form of death or a form of immortality of life, very much like life itself." Here is a story to bring one kind of order to a boiling world. I urge you to take this trip to Ice.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
He is Ice. 23 July 2013
By Greg Polansky - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book that, if you choose, will reward you on multiple levels.

If you want a good story, set in an exotic local as many fantasies written in the twenty-first century seem wont to do to now to differentiate themselves from the typical Tolkienesque medieval world, then you will enjoy the alien world written about here.

If you are Russian, Russophone or have a background where you learned the tales of the bogatyrs, about the succession of Russian czars and czarinas of the 18th century, and about Russian culture then you will smile at the casual references to things you know and grew up with. And maybe you still recall watching the most awesome Soviet cartoon, The Snow Queen (1957), and so something about the title of the book and the cover art will have sparked your imagination and cause you to order this on the day it came out.

Either way, or perhaps because of both ways, you will indeed enjoy this fantasy. Set against the backdrop of long centuries and across the span of the Russian Empire and beyond to the Middle East of the 19th century and Europe of the 20th century, the story begins with the copulation of the protagonist's (Alexander) father with a dwarf. In an ice palace of all places. Why there and why the deed? Because the author's father offended the Empress Anna with a dalliance with an Italian Catholic. Ah the whims of royalty when you're the not the ruler but living in an autocratic system. Fun times.

The writing itself can sometimes feel/be considered overwrought. But only to the eyes of someone used to twenty-first century simplicity. No one seriously calls Jane Austen verbose or full of love for her own self because of how she wrote. And I did get a slight Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell vibe from the writing of this book, another book written now but as it were originally written in another century. It's not too easy to capture the writing style of a bygone era. The book sometimes feels as if it is being written in the 18th century but with modern just slightly too self indulgent and self aware tendencies. Considering that the protagonist is thinking about his own history, then perhaps this mismatch between 18th century and 21st century will resolve itself.

But where is the fantasy you're asking yourself. Early on in our riveting tale, Alexander slowly begins to realize that he cannot feel cold. And what this means for him is what drives his story. Because Alexander is different than everyone else and his search for the reason why he is different is the heart of the book. It will lead him across the Russian Empire. And beyond. Lots of great descriptions. Lots of good story telling.

Fantasy can be many things these days. While I am happy reading Tolkien or Lewis, I'm also happy reading this kind of book that sets the story in a world many of us are just as unfamiliar with, but that still seeks to tell a good story and allow us an escape from the "real" world into the fantastical world. This time to that of a Russia that was.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Chilling Epic 31 July 2013
By Annette - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Source: Free copy from Scribner for the purpose of review
In St. Petersburg, Russia, twin boys are born to parents that were imprisoned in an ice palace in 1740. The boys are named Andrei and Alexander. Andrei is the older, bolder, goal-oriented brother. His heart is set on being a Lieb Guard. Alexander had followed his brother at every point in their growing up years, oddly enough it is Alexander that passes up his brother in height and achievement in the guard. While still a youth Alexander discovers his "gift." "Arousal, rage, fear, even joy," his body's response is cold. His embrace and kiss, is like ice. His body's reaction or non-reaction to cold helps him in the wintry weather of Russia, but it does not help him in intimacy. In despondence over his condition he joins an Arctic expedition.

Opening paragraph: "I was born of cold copulation, white-fleshed and waxy like a crust of fat on beef broth left outside in winter." Page 1.

My Thoughts:
When I began reading this story I found it fascinating. The plot and main character made for an absorbing read.
The book itself, the inside cover is beautiful with illustrated maps in icy blues.
The first 100 pages I was actively involved in Alexander's story. Then mid-point I became a bit lost in understanding what was going on, I had to back up and re-read several times. The later part of the book accelerates in time, this added to my being more lost, but I managed to hang on.
In some ways I loved this story, it is a story I'd not heard before.
It is written with imagination and creativity.
It is a travel adventure.
A story of self-discovery.
It is historical.
It gave me a better understanding of Russia during the 18th century.
The authors writing style is beautiful, the descriptive details moved me emotionally as poetry does.
What I did not like was the main character answers for the reader. He is the narrator, but I did not enjoy him answering for me.
I also did not like having to re-read certain passages, because I did not know what was going on or thought I'd missed something along the way and had to retrace the chapter.
I felt the author could have drew me in a bit more to Alexander. He shared his story with me, yet I did not feel completely attached to him, nor feel an investment in his outcome. I cared, but not much. Maybe this icy story transfered itself from Alexander's character to me?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Age Of Ice Is A Spellbinding Tale of History, Love, and Immortality 23 April 2014
By Nassem Al-Mehairi - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Age Of Ice by J.M. Sidorova, I am going to say upfront, is now one of my favorite books ever read. For a person who reads about a book a day, and has for many years, this is a major compliment.

The story of Prince Alexander Velitzyn is a fascinating one. A man conceived in the (real-life) ice palace constructed by Empress Anna Ioannovna, he was born to a disgraced nobleman and a disformed jester. As he grows alongside his twin brother, Andrei, he starts to realize that passion for him becomes cold.

Alexander, in his pursuit to find the answer to why he is immortal and his coldness, begins to live throughout many major events of the last 300 years. He participates in an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, defends Russia from Napoleon, and becomes a spy for multiple parties. Alexander, throughout it all, loved and lost so much. Some mocked him, some ran to him, and some betrayed him, but he had to march on. By the end, in modern times, he comes to realize the truth that he has waited for his entire life: He Is Ice.

The Age Of Ice captivated me. The imagery was presented beautifully, and the span over centuries worked well due to Alexander’s immortality. It was never answered in the text, but in the inference I took from the book, Alexander is immortal because of the particles slowing down in ice, and that makes it viable. It is not really science-fiction, but has hints of it, and is much more than a historical fiction. It is a masterpiece of a debut, and asks us to ponder the question of humanity itself. The Age Of Ice has the plot and theme to be a modern classic, and I believe will stand the test of time to become one of the great works of our era.
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