Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins

Originally published in Australia as Rosa and the Veil of Gold, this is a really interesting book that twists Russian folklore and reality into a very original story.

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Google Books
            When an ancient gold bear is found walled up in a dilapidated St. Petersburg bathhouse, researcher Daniel St. Clair and his frosty colleague Em Hayward set out for the university in Arkhangelsk to verify its age. Along the way they are mysteriously set adrift. Maps are suddenly useless. Lost and exhausted they turn north, sinking even deeper into the secrets and terrors of the Russian landscape.
Daniel’s lost love, the wild and beautiful Rosa Kovalenka, fears the worst when Daniel goes missing and resolves to find him. To do so will mean confronting her past and secrets that she has fought to suppress. The only way to save him is to go forward, where she encounters the haunted Chenchikov clan, a family with their own shadowy tangle of grief, desire, and treachery.
In the unknowable, impenetrable Russian forest, Rosa meets an enigmatic wanderer who is full of tales and riddles of times past. Who might hold the key to Rosa and Daniel’s future--or the destruction of their world.

Here's what I thought:   What I liked most about this book was the writing.   There were times when I would just savor a sentence, or re-read a paragraph, just because the writing and language were so beautiful.  I also really enjoyed reading the elements that had to do with Russian folklore, because I don't really know much about folklore from that area of the world.   The author does a nice job of pulling in elements from history, and then giving them a little twist to make them more fantastical. 

What I wasn't so big on were the characters.  Rosa is kind of interesting, but I felt she was a little flat.  I didn't care that much about her, and was usually just curious to see what was going to happen to her.   Daniel is, plainly put, annoying.  The kind of man I refer to as "milk for blood."  He's wimpy and the only redeeming things he offers throughout most of the book are his knowledge of the Russian language, and his knowledge of some Russian folklore, both of which come in handy when he's stuck in the magical wilds with Em.  Em was the only character I really cared about.   A little cold and a little prickly, Em's got some balls --- she's the real strength here, character-wise.  She's certainly not perfect, but I found her to be much more interesting than Rosa or Daniel.

If you're looking for something new, and have gotten all you can from Celtic mythology (or Greek mythology, etc). and you're a fan of the original Grimm's fairy tales, you'll probably find this an interesting read.  It weighs in at 496 pages, but I found it a pretty fast read.


Amanda Makepeace said...

I'm intrigued, even with the thought of below average characters. You don't hear a lot about Russian folklore. I think I'll check if out library has this one.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

This one looks really interesting!! I'm stopping by from the book blog hop!

WonderBunny said...

I love Kim Wilkins' books. They are fabulous mostly due to her wonderful use of words. I also enjoy reading her blog. Have you read Autumn Castle? That is my favorite book by her so far. I have two more on my stack waiting to be read but haven't gotten to them. Giants of the Frost is another of her's and deals with Norse folklore.

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