Sedia (According to Crow) applies urban fantasy templates to her Russian setting with mixed success in her second stand-alone novel. Masha, the cheerfully normal sister of vision-prone translator Galina, turns into a jackdaw and flies off, leaving her just-born child behind. Joined by police detective Yakov Richards, Galina tracks the missing Masha into an underground milieu where lost souls mingle with beings out of Russian folklore. A host of secondary characters rapidly clutter the narrative and cloud its focus, and Sedia's persistently curt prose favors contemporary atmosphere over mythic resonance, diminishing Koschey the Deathless and Zemun the Celestial Cow to near-mundane status. Modern blue-collar Moscow is pitch-perfect, however: bustling yet seedy, disorganized and none too respectable. While undeniably authentic, the cynical tone may alienate many Western readers before they reach the startling but well-grounded climax. On the whole, this wholeheartedly Russian tale is most compelling as social commentary.
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