I had another advanced reading copy that had caught my eye based largely on its terrific cover and that I took to be a historical fiction novel set in Russia. Now, I have always liked Russian fiction so this sounded like something that could be right up my alley so I dug into “The age of ice” by J. M. Sidorova.
When a deformed jester and a disgraced nobleman are forced into marriage and made to consummate their marriage in a castle, and on a bed, made of ice, Alexander and Alexei Velitzyn are conceived. The twins have a happy childhood but Alexander begins to notice that he is different as they grow older. While Alexei marries and starts a family, Alexander discovers that passion of any kind causes his body to grow cold. Just as he was conceived in ice, Alexander himself is ice and thus is shut off from the normal human passions and pleasures.
Like the ice, Alexander finds himself to be a mostly passive observer of the world as time flows by. He searches for his place in life while watching nations rise and fall. Alexander continues to search for the meaning behind his existence and his strange relationship with ice across centuries in which he meets with many historical figures and even has some small influence on history itself. But even ice wears and cracks through time and so it is with Alexander who is looking for answers as the world slowly wears him down with the passage of time.
“The age of ice” is not a historical fiction novel in the classic sense but more of a historical fantasy. It spans centuries and generations in a way that few novels have done in the past and is deftly written to keep the story fresh and exciting throughout. With its classical style and superior character development, the novel draws the reader into a world of intrigue and suspense that remains strong throughout the hundreds of pages and years that the novel spans. There are few novels that have caught my imagination like this one has and that is able to keep me pressing through the sometimes complex prose to find the hidden meaning of the story.
In “The age of ice,” Sidorova crafts a modern literary classic that seems to have the story and themes to stand the test of time. This book is not only captivating in its prose but raises many issues that speak to the readers mind and raises questions about what it is to be human. Alexander exists as a man outside of time and society but who is the constant observer of the world around him. He provides a filter through which history can be viewed and understood as he deals with the technological and political developments as our worlds while struggle to change with the times and remain true to himself. The question of who he is haunts the pages of this epic novel and leads the reader to question the meaning of humanity itself and to search for answers for what it means to be human and original in a world that is confusing and changing at all times. “The age of ice” is one of the most original and thought-provoking novels that I have read in a long time and is a literary treasure that has become rare in the world today.
I would like to give a special thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for this advanced reading copy. “The age of ice” is available from Scribner now and readers should not hesitate to pick up a copy of this novel.