Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean - TLC Book Review

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean
HarperCollins, 2012

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours

**FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Mirrored World in exchange for a review.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias. 

Format? Hardback

Title? a little confusing...and I'm sure my feeble brain is missing something very important
Cover? gray, blue and cold, women with their heads covered...a cold that you feel to your bones.  Yep, that's this story.

Why? Catherine the Great, Imperial Russia, and a woman named St. Xenia...I'm in.

What Now?  LOTS of Googling to do...and I really, really need to read Catherine the Great.

Golden Lines

Because she was cruelly widowed and then prevented by the burdens of state from marrying the man she loved, it became a favorite sport of the Empress's to arrange the marriages of those beneath her.  And thus it was that she contrived to celebrate hr birthday and the end of the war with the Turks by marrying her jester to one of her maids. (16)

Tsar Peter had made it law that a girl could not be married without her consent, but it was a law observed mostly in the breach.  No good father would allow such an important decision as marriage to rest on the affectionate inclinations or disinclinations of a girl. (23)

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna's was the reign of song. (50)

Here the priest found his answer: this barrenness was God's punishment for her lust.  The act of fornication was evil, even between husband and wife.  The only justification for this act was the children that came from it; without them, the soul remained stained. (81)

I have heard it remarked by foreigners, in particular the English, that our mourning is a cacophony compared with their own more muted grief. (119)

"We have eaten today, and we shall eat again tomorrow." She said this just a child might, her face empty of any anxiety. (145)

Such radiance was not intended for mortals, and to achieve it, hundreds of boys were mutilated, made into monsters so that a few among the wounded might sing. (148)

Short and Sweet Summary

Dasha tells the story of how Xenia and her sister, Nadya came to live with her family while their fathers fighting the Turks.  Dasha's father returns, but the sisters' father does not.  Brought up together, their focus is on making a good match and beginning their own families.  Xenia falls in love and is married to the man of her dreams until tragedy strikes and she is unable to bring herself out of her grief.  Known her entire life for being able to "see" things, she gives herself over to the world, much to the chagrin of the rest of her family. 

What I Liked

The Google factor:

St. Xenia
fire of 1736
Her Imperial Majesty Anna Ioannovna
Sadovaya Street, the Neva, Neva Prospect
Dashenka, Dasha, Kunstkamera, Xenichka, matushka
War with the Turks and the storming of Ochakiv
Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna
Grigoriy Ivanovich (Xenia and Nadya's father)
Semeonovsky regiment
Admiralty Meadow
Nikolai Feodosievich, Prince Golitsyn
Empress Elizabeth
the marriage of German born Catherine to Grand Duke Peter
Sergei Naryshkin, Leonid Vladimirovich Berevsky
Colonel Andrei Feodorovich Petrov
Count Alexi Razumovsky
Kuzma Zakharovich, Grand Master of the Hunt
Cathedral of Kazan
Tsarskoye Selo, the summer palace, The Winter Palace
Shuvalov brothers
Lake Svetloyar
kvas, polonaise, fur pelisse, klikushi, kopeks and silver rubles
La mia moglie, cuoricino mio
Francesco Gaspari
musicos, eunuch
Virgin of Vladimir
Smolenskoye cemetery, the Domostroi
Monsieur Diderot and l'esprit de l'escalier, staircase wit,
sumasbrodnye, cognoscenti, messa di voce, droshky, opustoshyonnaya
The war against Prussia (1756)
The end of Peter the Third and the beginning of Catherine the Great
fools in Petersburg
Ivan Antonovich's imprisonment by the Empress Elizabeth
French insurrection and emigrants from Paris to Petersburg
Saint Basil and Tsar Ivan Grozny

Musical vocabulary, history, daily life and the importance of music in religion

Spirituality, culture, language and tradition - from marriages to funerals, the beginning of Lent to Easter, the birth of children, marriage contracts, the afterlife, you name it, there's symbolism and and 

What I Didn't Like

Names, names, and more names...I finally just started circling them all so I could go back and figure out who was who.  Who was in charge of what and who took what from whom?  I fully chalk this up to a lack of my background on Russian history and geography.

Xenia was a little over the top for me and I look forward to learning more about her legend.  She was incredibly emotional and was unable to pull herself out of her grief.  She also didn't seem to worry about those around her very much...of course, it all worked out fine and she very well may have "known" that it would, but it drove me crazy.  Much like Dasha, I wanted to throw the given away chamber pot on the floor and smash it into a billion pieces.  

Overall Recommendation

If you're the least bit interested in Russian history and culture, you won't regret picking up The Mirrored World.  If, like me, you don't have much of a background for the content, you'll still enjoy it, albeit a little slower possibly, and then The Mirrored World becomes a book you'll re-visit after you fill in some of the blanks for yourself.  

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, July 16th: Dreaming in Books
Wednesday, July 17th: Bibliophilia, Please!
Thursday, July 18th: A Bookish Affair
Saturday, July 20th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, July 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, July 24th: Peppermint PhD
Monday, July 29th: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, July 30th: A Patchwork of Books
Wednesday, July 31st: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, August 1st: guiltless reading
Thursday, August 8th: Worsdmithonia
Friday, August 9th: Drey’s Library


  1. I read this when it toured last year and enjoyed it. Russian history is twisted to say the least.

    1. I had no clue about the the hell did the powers that be justify that??...twisted indeed.

  2. I like the kindle app's new x-ray feature to help keep up with names in historical fiction at I am not as familiar with. This sounds like a good read!!!

    1. Oh my!! I must download that app immediately!!! Sometimes I don't get it all together in my head until I go back through and re-read my notes!!

  3. I have this book but have never read it. You make me want to read it even more. Thanks, Patti.

  4. I read this a while ago and I had mixed feelings about it. Loved your review of it!

    1. There were a few times when I felt a little overwhelmed...and I didn't like Xenia...even by the end :(

  5. I think I would like this one as I'm definitely interested in Russian history.

    1. Sam, you should definitely give it a try then. I have so much to learn!!

  6. I've just started this and don't have an opinion of it. I think I've kept the names straight so far, because there aren't too many yet ... yikes, let's see! :)

  7. Russian history is quite complex, and the names are somewhat difficult at the very least, but still I'm a huge fan. I'm so looking forward to reading this one!

    Thanks for being on the tour.