Marcus Sedgwick's new YA book, Blood Red, Snow White is an astonishing book that I found very hard to put down. It's set at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolutions, a period that saw the end of a centuries-old dynasty, when the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia sent shockwaves around the world. This story is that of one man who was in Russia at that time: Arthur Ransome, probably best known these days for his classic children's novel Swallows and Amazons, although at the time he'd only published Old Peter's Russian Tales. This story covers the riches and excesses; the glory of the Russian nobility; Tsar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra; their haemophiliac son, Alexei; the ever notorious Rasputin; Lenin and Trotsky who ruled from the palaces where the Tsars had once danced till dawn. Sedgwick has fictionalised history and blended it with Ransome's biography. Part One is told as a fairy tale: featuring wise and foolish kings, princesses, enchantresses, wishes and magic; Russia's vast cold plains and mighty cities, its riches and its poverty all play a part in the downfall of the Tsars and the rise of the new order. Part Two is about betrayal: Ransome is now working as a spy, in a country that is bleak and threatening. Part Three is told in the form of a memoir from Ransome's point of view; it's a love story with a fairy tale ending, about Ransome's love for his daughter, Tabitha, and for Evgenia, the Russian woman with whom he fell in love.
Written with all Sedgwick's usual Gothic style and featuring some cleverly created bridges between history, biography and fairy tales, Blood Red, Snow White is a multi-layered novel that is sure to prove a best-seller. This book is out in July and was received for review from Waterstones.com.