The Veil of Gold
Tor, Jul 2008, $25.95
After breaking with her boyfriend the historian Daniel St. Clair, Rosa Kovalenka returns to her homeland Russia for the first time in years to assist her uncle at a St. Petersburg dilapidated bathhouse. Workers uncover a golden statue of a bear buried in the walls. Rosa asks Daniel to authenticate the find. Accompanied by Em Hayward, Daniel suggests asking his former professor in Archangelsk to take a look at the artifact; Rosa agrees.
Daniel and Em drive towards Archangelsk, but vanish somewhere on the two day trek without a trace. While Rosa searches for her missing former lover, the bear has taken the pair into another realm Swazi; a place where a millennium ago when a Russian princess adopted Jesus the country split apart into the land of men called Mir and the realm of dangerous magic Skazki.
This engaging horror fantasy is played out along three well written subplots. First there is Daniel and Em trying to survive the dangerous Skazi realm while finding a way home; then there is Rosa in Russia trying to rescue Daniel; and finally there are asides starring an elderly person telling tales of the history of Russia to his daughter (and readers) around the time that princess caused the split. However, the key to this excellent saga is no one is incredibly courageous or 100 percent evil. Everyone is a little of both with a basic instinct, whether you are a human in Russia or Skazi or a mythical creature, to survive. Thus the underlying message of this exciting tale is ethics are personal so what the reader might find horrific, another person (or creature) might find as the norm. This is a great work by a terrific author.