At the 1852 Christmas party hosted by Tsar Nicholas I, the plucky half-Chinese, half-Russian poet Sonja Sankova decks Peter "Colonel Cut" Koslov, who is infamous for his necklace of ears taken from serfs and Jews. In London that same night, American Jack Sandt, the Matthew Brady of Asia, conspires with Karl Marx to con the tsar into letting him take daguerreotype images inside Russia.
So begins this immaculately researched, wildest of romantic wild rides, an odyssey of two lovers fleeing for their lives through the vast reaches of the Russian empire. The period details are splendid: a supper with Ivan Turgenev; a visit with the craftsmen who designed and cut gems for the Romanov tsars, a ball in a frontier town in the Urals, a glimpse of life inside the yurts of nomadic herdsmen.
With Koslov and his special unit, the Wolfpack, in hot pursuit, Sonja and Jack flee St. Petersburg, cross European Russia, and go down the Urals, there risking their lives on a turbulent mountain river. Sonja and Jack take turns telling their story, as they fall in love and marry in a Siberian chapel. In a narrow escape, Jack shoots Koslov in the ankle.
A sadistic Kyrghyz nomad grabs Sonja and spirits her away. Jack and a Cossack pursue the nomad and his men across the Asian steppe, but Koslov gets to him first. Koslov takes Sonja to a fabled mountain near Lake Baikal, where he is to retrieve rubies destined for a new Romanov throne. He waits, vowing revenge for his stiff ankle. Jack rescues his wife, and with their lives and a fortune of rubies at stake---and real wolves howling in a blizzard---Sonja and Jack face down Colonel Cut and the Wolfpack.
About Richard Hoyt
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Published February 1, 2005
by Forge Books.
History, Literature & Fiction, Romance, Action & Adventure.