The Winter Queen

by Boris Akunin | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by yvonnep of Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Netherlands on 11/17/2003
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
18 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by yvonnep from Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Monday, November 17, 2003
I bought this book because I liked the cover, not knowing that...all that is said much more eloquent by Richard Lourie in his New York Times Book Review. I have fallen in love with Erast Fandorin, I'm afraid that I will have to read every next book...

If Pushkin Had Written Mysteries . . .
by Richard Lourie

JUST back from Moscow, I can attest to Boris Akunin's wild popularity with Russian readers. The stacks of his detective novels on sidewalk vendors' tables melted away before my eyes. On the Metro's long, slanting escalators, every 12th face was masked by the distinctive black-and-white covers of his books. In fact, Akunin, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili (cause enough for a nom de plume) and who previously translated Japanese literature for a living, has said of the origins of his own career: ''I decided to write the kind of detective novel that respectable ladies wouldn't be ashamed to read in the Metro.'' (His wife, a covert fan of the genre, used to cover hers in brown paper.)

The secret of Akunin's success is timing. The Russians have always lacked a middle -- a middle ground in politics, a middle class, a middlebrow form of literature. The lack of a stabilizing center has made for some dramatic oscillations in their history, but these days they have had it with drama and color, preferring to experiment, at least for now, with such exotic notions as making money and leading normal lives. This includes reading for distraction and entertainment instead of for ''the truth'' as once promised by both the regime and the underground. Also, for a variety of reasons, Russians are interested in reconnecting with the prerevolutionary past, whose image was so distorted by Soviet propaganda.

Akunin's novels fill all these needs. They are set in a Russia ruled by czars and written in a tongue-in-cheek 19th-century style. Each chapter is subtitled (the first, for example, is one ''in which an account is rendered of a certain cynical escapade'') and the detective at the center of the story is referred to as ''our hero,'' devices that readers will find either amusing or annoying, depending on their taste.

Aside from these tics, Akunin's prose is clean and swift, pausing only to set a scene with a few well-chosen details before resuming the hairpin curves of the action. If Pushkin had tried his hand at detective fiction, it might have turned out something like this. In fact, the narrative's combination of impulsive passion and cool ratiocination, with its touches of self-mockery and the demonic, suggests the early years of the 19th century rather than the period in which the novel takes place. (''The Winter Queen'' is set in fin-de-siècle Russia, according to a press release, and in 1876 according to the author.)

''Our hero'' is Erast Petrovich Fandorin -- young, handsome, athletic, versed in foreign languages and Eastern breathing techniques. The only son of a good family whose fortunes took a disastrous turn, now orphaned and without funds or social position, he has decided to make his career in the police, where his supervisor doesn't see much of a future for him -- not least because the mere sight of a slit throat can turn him green. But that, like nearly everything else, proves to be an illusion in this tale where the loyal turn perfidious, while the perfidious prove unsuspectedly loyal.

The action opens on a day in mid-May that ''combined the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer.'' Russia has only a few years left before the assassination of Czar Alexander II begins the dark slide to war and revolution. Society's rebellious Robespierres, a police official explains, are already ''weary of educating the peasants -- a job so long and tedious that an entire lifetime is not time enough. The bomb, the dagger and the revolver are far more interesting. I am expecting large-scale bloodshed in the very near future.''

But the bloodshed that opens this tale -- and launches Fandorin's career -- could not be less revolutionary. A rich young man has killed himself in Moscow's Alexander Gardens, having spun a single cartridge in a revolver's chamber, pulled the trigger and lost at a game said to have been thought up in the Klondike gold fields and therefore called American roulette. (As a bon vivant remarks, it's ''a shame the Americans thought of it before we did.'') The suicide note ostensibly explains the young man's motive: ''Your world nauseates me, and that, truly, is quite reason enough.'' He has left his fortune to Baroness Margaret Astair, a British educator famed for her world-wide organization of progressive orphanages, which will shift the action for a time to England.

To Fandorin's supervisor, the case presents no interest apart from the question of why the new generation holds life so cheap that it has made even suicide a fashion. Fandorin, who is both intuitive and deductive, senses that there's more to this death than meets the eye. ''There's some kind of mystery here, I swear there is! . . . Yes, that's it precisely, a mystery!'' Fandorin's hunch leads him into a maze of beauty, danger and deception where he encounters Amalia Bezhetskaya (''a veritable Cleopatra with a dense mane of hair and immense black eyes, her long neck set in a haughty curve and a slight hint of cruelty evident in the willful line of her mouth'') and a mysterious organization named after the fallen angel Azazel (the title of the book in the original Russian), each of whose members is ''a knight of the new humanity'' in competition with the political activists, whose ''bloody revolution . . . will set mankind back by several centuries.''

Akunin is quite adept at the three-card monte of plot manipulation. When an ally suddenly turns enemy, blindsiding hero and reader, precipitous action is bound to ensue. Fandorin is frequently in extreme peril, in cliffhangers that are both stylized and exciting -- if only our hero could reach the derringer hidden in his boot. . . .

Akunin keeps a delicate balance between archly toying with the conventions of the genre and employing them to create that mixture of curiosity and anxiety known as suspense. That spell can be broken if the reader is too often reminded that he is reading a book; then the illusion of life loses its fullness and becomes like one character's ''dark silhouette against the window,'' which ''looked as if it had been cut out with scissors and pasted on gray paper.''

In a work of this sort, translation plays an even more important role than usual. It's one thing if the author is intentionally reminding the reader that this is language, not life; quite another if the translator does so inadvertently. This is a sin not committed by Andrew Bromfield, who is developing into one of England's finest translators from the Russian. Still, he occasionally settles for the dictionary definition or the literal rendition, as when he has a Russian say ''I invite you,'' when what is meant is ''It's on me; I'm treating.''

Will Akunin's success travel? Predicting the book market is notoriously tricky, but my guess is that goodly numbers of readers will find this a saucy and insouciant tale of derringers and derring-do.

Richard Lourie is the author of ''Sakharov: A Biography.''

Published: 07 - 13 - 2003 , Late Edition - Final , Section 7 , Column 1 , Page 8
By Boris Akunin.
Translated by Andrew Bromfield.

I wanted to share the book with my Dutch fellow bookcrossers, so I started this national bookring (so: this book will not be send internationally). Participants are:

and back to me.
Een lijstje dat een lijst werd, toen ik even niet keek! :-)

Journal Entry 2 by Gnoe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Thursday, December 11, 2003
It's great to be the #1 on a list for once ;-)
Since I have no other book at hand I will start reading immediately!
Eh well, first chance I get at reading, that is ;-)

Update 13/12 Ah, this is what I love about reading... A book that keeps calling you any spare minute of the day :)

Journal Entry 3 by Gnoe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Great book: exciting right up to THE END. For a minute I thought Akunin could have skipped the last chapter but oh, was I wrong ;-) A real page turner as far as I'm concerned!

I am forwarding The Winter Queen to the next bookcrosser!

Journal Entry 4 by marjolijn from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Sunday, February 8, 2004
I'll write something later

Journal Entry 5 by Gnoe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Sunday, March 28, 2004
Akunin ended up with me once more so I have sent him on his way again!

Strangely enough I am not as enthusiastic as I was before...

Journal Entry 6 by MaaikeB from Zeist, Utrecht Netherlands on Wednesday, March 31, 2004
The Winter Queen arrived safely in Zeist. Thanks, gnoe! I'll try to read it soon - I saw the impressively long list of other people who want to read this. You'll be hearing from me.

Journal Entry 7 by MaaikeB from Zeist, Utrecht Netherlands on Friday, April 16, 2004
Het wilde niet boteren tussen mij en de winterkoningin. Ik ben er twee keer in begonnen en vond het allemaal heel onderhoudend, maar ik heb geen geduld om het verhaal zich te laten ontwikkelen. Akunin schrijft prachtige zinnen, waar ik vaak om moest gniffelen en het heeft een heerlijk ouderwets Sherlock Holmes achtig sfeertje, waar ik eigenlijk erg van hou. Als het m'n eigen boek was, zou ik het tot de kerstvakantie laten liggen en het dan lekker bij de open haard van een vakantiehuisje lezen, maar het is een ring. Dus hij moet door. Ik hou de titel in gedachten voor ooit...

Journal Entry 8 by mylene from Nederweert, Limburg Netherlands on Wednesday, April 21, 2004
The book has arrived yesterday - forgot to enter it after I started reading :)

Journal Entry 9 by mylene from Nederweert, Limburg Netherlands on Friday, September 17, 2004
Absolutely great book. I started reading it, and never stopped until the end.

I thought I sent it already, but it seemed to be lost. Luckily, today, I found it (should be cleaning the house more often :( )

Journal Entry 10 by ecritures from Hoofddorp, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Wednesday, September 22, 2004
I had nearly forgotten about this book when Ireceived a pm about it. Today it arrived safely in Hoofddorp. After finishing my current book (To say nothing about the dog of Connie Willis) I will start on this one. (If my husband hasn't nicked it before that....)

Journal Entry 11 by ecritures from Hoofddorp, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Sunday, June 5, 2005
Never managed to actually read this book; it continuously dissapeared to the bottom of my 'to be read pile' of books. My husband managed to grab it in the mean time though and read the book in a few days. He thoroughly enjoyed it and told me a very positive review. During one of our recent trips to the bookstore he bought one of Akunin's other books featuring the same main character Fandorin. So according to him - and why not trust his judgement - this book is definitely worth the read. I am sending it quickly on to the next person since I had this book far too long in my posession.

Journal Entry 12 by wandering from Breda, Noord-Brabant Netherlands on Thursday, June 9, 2005
Vandaag in de brievenbus en nu balanceert dit boekje rustig bovenop de Nog-Te-Lezen Berg. Ik ben benieuwd!

Journal Entry 13 by wandering from Breda, Noord-Brabant Netherlands on Wednesday, July 6, 2005
All those Russian names are a disaster! They have got at least three each, that are used in random combinations and some even have 'nicknames' or alter egos on the side. Distinguishing them by 'very little vowels' and 'pronouncable', I really had a hard time keeping them all with the right character. Really, I can hardly remember west European names, so don't start throwing more foreign ones at me... ;)

Besides that, it's a good book! The time-spirit and the Russian atmosphere is tangible (and what a fascinating era it was!) The plot is unpredictable, the ending provides just too little clearness to leave it to this one part of the series...

Thanks for sharing, yvonnep!

So now it's off to our 'Dutch dependance' in the South of Africa. Catch, Nrrdgrrl!

Journal Entry 14 by nrrdgrrl from Tunbridge Wells, Kent United Kingdom on Thursday, July 21, 2005
caught! quite a long way for a national bookring :)
i'll bring it back with me when i visit the netherlands in a couple of weeks. thanks much for sending it across the world!

Journal Entry 15 by nrrdgrrl from Tunbridge Wells, Kent United Kingdom on Monday, September 5, 2005
yup, i brought it with me allright. but i had not anticipated having no time nor the energy to read anything. so erast went back with me again. and now he's finished!

or, well, he's by and about the only one who is not. the story was quite slow to start and i feared being stuck for weeks on end in a russian quagmire of slowness. but once our hero is sent on his way to act on himself akunin piles action onto action. which is, in fact, a pity.

it might be because this is the first in a series but the plot is a bit overcrowded. a bit less of 007-imitation and a bit more of sticking to his pushkin pastiche would have done to book well. surely the ending was written for hollywood style trained readers? am i just old or is the zap generation a realistic target group for a thriller?

maybe it is indeed my being old, as the visuals to most of this book seemed quite directly copied from james bond films that i remember. the finale is tremendously over the top, aggravated strongly by the hasty ending of the prose. this is no cliffhanger, it's the end of the allocated pages.

so what did i think of it? mmm, not sure. i'm very fond of erast fandorin. i'm not much of a suspense fan - naturally that's no help. the indescrepancies in style (swaying between pushkin and george lazenby) bother me a lot. i fancy the prose, and the plot, but not the means. you know what? probably i should just read another volume of the series!

Released 16 yrs ago (9/7/2005 UTC) at Controlled Release in Controlled Release, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases



vandaag niet gelukt, maar morgen gaat boris mee met de staatspost. die geen beste reputatie heeft, maar dat geldt vziw alleen het tempo. we houden het in de gaten!

edit: toch maar wel met postnet verstuurd, een stuk betrouwbaarder (afkloppen!).

Journal Entry 17 by gerbie7 from Goor, Overijssel Netherlands on Tuesday, September 13, 2005
In de post ontvangen vandaag. Had net mijn boek op mijn nachtkastje uit, dus komt deze eerst voor ik mijn kast induik voor een nieuw boek.

Journal Entry 18 by gerbie7 from Goor, Overijssel Netherlands on Sunday, October 9, 2005
Boris Akunin – The Winter queen (05-046)

Akunin apparently is a major best-seller in Russia at the moment. This book is the first in a series of mysteries, starring Erast Fandorin. Crime stories based in the late 19th century, probably not coincidentally the time when the major Russian authors published several classics.

A suicide seems exactly that to most bystanders and the police as well. Not to our hero, who tries to find out what happened before the suicide. He travels to London and St. Petersburg, bumps into a global conspiracy and solves the mystery, though a lot happens before he is that far.

I loved reading several Russian authors, but I am afraid that Akunin will not be in my list of writers I will follow in the future. The book never really had me on the edge of my seat, never managed to drag me into it.

Number: 05-046
Title: The winter queen
Author: Boris Akunin
Language: English (Orig.: Russian)
Year: 2003 (Orig.: 1998)
# Pages: 245 (8765)
Category: Whodunnit
ISBN: 0-8129-7221-X

Journal Entry 19 by gerbie7 at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Released 16 yrs ago (10/17/2005 UTC) at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



Een week lang had ik elke dag het boek in mijn tas mee naar mijn werk, maar lukte het me geen enkele keer om tijdens openingstijden van een postkantoor daar binnen te lopen. Gisteren dus eindelijk wel. Onderweg naar Plinius dus.

Journal Entry 20 by Plinius from Schiedam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Sunday, October 30, 2005
ha, I enjoyed that! I like Erast Fandorin, he is awkward enough and lucky enough to be a good hero and the narrative style is light and enjoyable.

Off to Maupi as soon as I find the time to go to the post-office.

Journal Entry 21 by rem_HHX-328595 on Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Ha fijn, een boek. En nog wel een van Akunin, die staat al een tijd op mijn verlanglijstje.

Journal Entry 22 by rem_HHX-328595 on Monday, December 5, 2005
Great read, read it in almost one go. Splendid long sentences, from the first to the last. I've travelled in Russia, an adorable country, it is wonderful to read about pre-Communist Moscow and beautiful beautiful St Petersburg. More! More! More Fandorin!

I gave this ring book priority not to hinder Frakke-Per's project to read authors from more or less unknown literary areas. And off it goes.

Journal Entry 23 by Frakke-Per from Rottumerzijl, Groningen Netherlands on Thursday, December 8, 2005
Het eerste boek van mijn Europa-leesproject, aan mij opgestuurd door een maupi zonder baard. De overwegend enthousiaste opmerkingen van zij die dit boek voor me mochten lezen, doen me watertanden. De opmerking op Maupi's kaart dat mijn adres in het geheime opschrijfboekje is beland, stemt me verheugd.

Journal Entry 24 by Frakke-Per from Rottumerzijl, Groningen Netherlands on Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Gewend als ik ben aan tamelijk realistische Scandinavische misdaadromans, verbaasde ik me soms met enige wrevel over de vegezochte wendingen en onwaarschijnlijke overlevingen van Erast Fandorin. Het boek was echter goed spannend en soms nog grappig ook. Ik heb het met plezier gelezen en wilde na de eerste helft door door doorlezen! (en de eerste helft las ik in een overvolle, lawaaierige trein, geen wonder dat het lezen daar nog niet zo soepel verliep)
Binnenkort keert het terug naar huize yvonnep.

Journal Entry 25 by Frakke-Per at on Saturday, December 17, 2005

Released 16 yrs ago (12/17/2005 UTC) at



Het boek zit in een gelige envelop, als je hem openmaakt, vind je hem direct.

Journal Entry 26 by yvonnep from Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Friday, December 23, 2005
The Winterqueen is home again. Thank you all for your inspiring journal entries. Perhaps I will release the book one day in de Wintergarden of Krasnapolsky. Seems a suitable place to me.

Journal Entry 27 by E-mile from Almere , Flevoland Netherlands on Saturday, August 2, 2008
got this one from yvonnep to set free somewhere; perhaps in Wintergarden of Krasnapolsky like yvonnep suggested. But with all the enthousiastic entries, I will put it on Mount To Be Read first....

Journal Entry 28 by wingmotherof11wing at Dalfsen, Overijssel Netherlands on Saturday, January 18, 2014
Received this book from E-mile, along with tons of other books!
Thanks, E-mile!

Journal Entry 29 by wingmotherof11wing at Roosdaal, Vlaams-Brabant / Brabant Flamant Belgium on Friday, April 18, 2014

Released 8 yrs ago (4/18/2014 UTC) at Roosdaal, Vlaams-Brabant / Brabant Flamant Belgium


This book goes to rodespringbal in the mystery / tea sweepstake.

Journal Entry 30 by wingrodespringbalwing at Roosdaal, Vlaams-Brabant / Brabant Flamant Belgium on Thursday, April 24, 2014
wow, this book travelled a lot already :-)
thank you motherof11 to send it

Journal Entry 31 by wingrodespringbalwing at Roosdaal, Vlaams-Brabant / Brabant Flamant Belgium on Wednesday, April 15, 2015
This was an entertaining mystery read but, in my opinion, nothing special. And I agree with wandering, the Russian names make it so difficult and confusing. I think a lot of people probably like it, but not me.

This book is on a journey for so long, it would be a waist to stop it now. This book will go in my W-bookring I'm hosting.

Journal Entry 32 by wingrodespringbalwing at Roosdaal, Vlaams-Brabant / Brabant Flamant Belgium on Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Released 7 yrs ago (4/15/2015 UTC) at Roosdaal, Vlaams-Brabant / Brabant Flamant Belgium


To a new reader in the W-bookring

Journal Entry 33 by wingNataliec7wing at West Molesey, Surrey United Kingdom on Thursday, April 23, 2015
Chosen from the W booking.

Journal Entry 34 by wingNataliec7wing at Barry, Wales United Kingdom on Saturday, May 25, 2019
I'll start by saying that I thought I would find this quite difficult to get into. The first sentence is a paragraph! And some names were very long! However, I was very wrong and loved this little gem. Getting to know Erast Fandorin was a real treat. Finding out about the suicide of the student was very interesting and once I read that part, I was hooked.
I'm really looking forward to reading more of this series which I'm sure I will enjoy.

Released 2 yrs ago (5/31/2019 UTC) at -- Controlled Release, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- United Kingdom


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Joining Flutterbies9 random bookbox.

Journal Entry 36 by 3vie at Gateshead, Tyne and Wear United Kingdom on Saturday, June 15, 2019
Chosen this well travelled little book from the random bookbox

Journal Entry 37 by 3vie at Gateshead, Tyne and Wear United Kingdom on Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Released 4 mos ago (1/12/2022 UTC) at Gateshead, Tyne and Wear United Kingdom


Putting into the crime and mystery bookbox

Journal Entry 38 by winggreenbadgerwing at St Albans, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Saturday, February 19, 2022
Chosen from the Crime/Mystery bookbox.

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