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Heart of Iron (2011)

por Ekaterina Sedia

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
18312146,420 (3.43)10
In a Russia where the Decembrists' rebellion was successful and the Trans-Siberian railroad was completed before 1854, Sasha Trubetskaya wants nothing more than to have a decent debut ball in St. Petersburg. But her aunt's feud with the emperor lands Sasha at university, where she becomes one of its first female students - an experiment, she suspects, designed more to prove female unsuitability for such pursuits than offer them education. The pressure intensifies when Sasha's only friends - Chinese students - start disappearing, and she begins to realize that her new British companion, Jack, has bigger secrets than she can imagine! Sasha and Jack find themselves trying to stop a war brewing between the three empires. The only place they can turn to for help is the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, newly founded by the Taiping rebels. Pursued by the terrifying Dame Florence Nightingale of the British Secret Service, Sasha and Jack escape across Siberia via train to China. Sasha discovers that Jack is not quite the person she thought he was...but then again, neither is she.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 12 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Slightly slow but nevertheless interesting alternate history set during the Opium wars between Britain and China, with the action mostly happening in Russia. A very steampunk feel to it, although very little actual technology as such. I think the whole concept was inspired by Spring Heeled Jack, a probably allegorical character who's been imagined somewhat more fantastically as having un-explained powers of levitation and speed. His nemesis is the British spymaster Dame Nightingale (she is very unbelievable and I think a better character could have been plucked from history). Our heroine is Sasha daughter of a widow estate owner, and with connections through her Aunt to the Emperor Constantine of Russia. Sasha is excited to be leaving home for her first 'season' in St Petersburg. Her spinster Aunt (unusually referred to as 'virgin' which is presumptuous and possibly a cultural error) is strong willed and persuades the emperor that women should be allowed to university. Sasha is in the first cohort and also manages to meet some Chinese students who feel equally out of place. These students introduce her to some of the inventive wonders they've been developing. And returning from one such gathering she first encounters the dashing Spring Heel Jack, who rescues her from some thugs.

Her Aunt's influence is clearly felt and Sasha is never one to shy away from a challenge so she decides Russia would be better served with an alliance with China instead of the current pre-occupation with England. This seems to be solely based on her brief discussions with her Chinese friends. So she disguises herself as a soldier (for proprietary's sake) and sets off with Jack on a long train ride through to Beijing to persuade that Emperor too. Yes it is as flimsy a plot as it sounds. But the characters and world are great, and the details along the way work very well.

It's one of those books that feels fun to read, but the more you think about afterwards the weaker it gets. The disguise is a time-honoured technique, but it wasn't questioned even once, not even for a moment of levity. There is little humour anywhere. The politics are unlikely and confusing, the airships utterly preposterous (but fun!) and the romantic tensions are unresolved, nothing quite makes as much sense as it should. It's a good train ride though and that's what it's all about. ( )
  reading_fox | Aug 23, 2020 |
This alternihistory Russian/Chinese steampunk adventure is quite charming and I'm disposed to like it for many reasons. For starters, it's steampunkery set somewhere other than England or the US (though, strangely, mostly English-speaking; I would be interested in learning the reasons behind that) and it includes some wonderful themes of identity in a time of great flux. Our heroine is both capable and ladylike right down to the tremendously restrained treatment of the love triangle.

Unfortunately, all that charming doesn't leave an awful lot of room for excitement or pace, and while I found myself consistently pleased with reading it, it never gripped me by anything vital. ( )
1 vote cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
I liked the first part of the book, even though the alternate history bit went totally past me, not being well-versed in Russian history.
In the second part of the book our protagonist comes over as a total Mary Sue, whom no one can dislike and for whom nothing can go wrong. Also, why Nightingale was chosen as the villain, was beyond me.

Disappointed :( ( )
  mummimamma | Apr 20, 2016 |
I did not do a good job as a reader on this book. I read it as I was falling asleep or to fill in time between appointments and while watching TV. I am certain that there was a better book than the one I read in the pages, had I only given it the opportunity it deserved.

That said, this was a very good book. Sedia writes excellent characters and has chosen her settings with exquisite care. Really, this is genius work finding the setting and plotting the action as her characters moved through them.

The book itself is a steampunk adventure of a woman in drag crossing Russia and China in a world where the December Revolution and the Taiping Revolution both went very differently than in ours.

The entire vision may have been too ambitious. There are elements of gender-politics, politics-politics, cross dressing, international relations, colonialism, romance, steampunk, super-heroes, travelogue, engineering feats, and a coming of age story all mixed together. It is to Sedia's credit that each and every one of them left me wanting more. Unfortunately, that was my response to the work as a whole: I want more of everything and I'm willing to let some parts of it go to get more of others.

So, in the end, I am left wanting more. So I'm going to seek out more of Sedia's work and see if she doesn't grow into her prodigious vision. Hell, more of the same would be good enough, but I get the feeling there is something remarkable in her future writing. Heart of Iron was good, but it left me thinking there is a great book hiding inside. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
I did not do a good job as a reader on this book. I read it as I was falling asleep or to fill in time between appointments and while watching TV. I am certain that there was a better book than the one I read in the pages, had I only given it the opportunity it deserved.

That said, this was a very good book. Sedia writes excellent characters and has chosen her settings with exquisite care. Really, this is genius work finding the setting and plotting the action as her characters moved through them.

The book itself is a steampunk adventure of a woman in drag crossing Russia and China in a world where the December Revolution and the Taiping Revolution both went very differently than in ours.

The entire vision may have been too ambitious. There are elements of gender-politics, politics-politics, cross dressing, international relations, colonialism, romance, steampunk, super-heroes, travelogue, engineering feats, and a coming of age story all mixed together. It is to Sedia's credit that each and every one of them left me wanting more. Unfortunately, that was my response to the work as a whole: I want more of everything and I'm willing to let some parts of it go to get more of others.

So, in the end, I am left wanting more. So I'm going to seek out more of Sedia's work and see if she doesn't grow into her prodigious vision. Hell, more of the same would be good enough, but I get the feeling there is something remarkable in her future writing. Heart of Iron was good, but it left me thinking there is a great book hiding inside. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 12 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Sedia superbly blends novel of manners, alternate history, and le Carré–style espionage with a dash of superheroes and steampunk.
adicionada por nsblumenfeld | editarPublishers Weekly (Jun 6, 2011)
 
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In a Russia where the Decembrists' rebellion was successful and the Trans-Siberian railroad was completed before 1854, Sasha Trubetskaya wants nothing more than to have a decent debut ball in St. Petersburg. But her aunt's feud with the emperor lands Sasha at university, where she becomes one of its first female students - an experiment, she suspects, designed more to prove female unsuitability for such pursuits than offer them education. The pressure intensifies when Sasha's only friends - Chinese students - start disappearing, and she begins to realize that her new British companion, Jack, has bigger secrets than she can imagine! Sasha and Jack find themselves trying to stop a war brewing between the three empires. The only place they can turn to for help is the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, newly founded by the Taiping rebels. Pursued by the terrifying Dame Florence Nightingale of the British Secret Service, Sasha and Jack escape across Siberia via train to China. Sasha discovers that Jack is not quite the person she thought he was...but then again, neither is she.

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