Heart of Iron

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By Ekaterina Sedia

Historical Information

Read Chapter One


In a Russia where the Decembrists’ rebellion was successful and the Trans-Siberian railroad was completed before 1854, Sasha Trubetskaya wants nothing more than to have a decent debut ball in St. Petersburg. But her aunt’s feud with the emperor lands Sasha at university, where she becomes one of its first female students—an experiment, she suspects, designed more to prove female unsuitability for such pursuits than offer them education. The pressure intensifies when Sasha’s only friends—Chinese students—start disappearing, and she begins to realize that her new British companion, Jack, has bigger secrets than she can imagine.

Sasha and Jack find themselves trying to stop a war brewing between the three empires. The only place they can turn to for help is the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, newly founded by the Taiping rebels. Pursued by the terrifying Dame Florence Nightingale of the British Secret Service, Sasha and Jack escape across Siberia via train to China. Sasha discovers that Jack is not quite the person she thought he was … but then again, neither is she.

Praise and Reviews

Heart of Iron takes its time in carefully detailing its characters, world, and action, and yet still whizzes by at such a tremendous clip that the the reader can scarce believe it’s over when the story rolls into its final destination. It’s a great piece of storytelling that is every bit as beautiful and elaborate as the costumes Sedia describes in loving (but never excessive) detail, and one that is a testament to the author’s prodigious prowess. This smart and relevant literary progeny of the wuxia adventure and the penny dreadful is a grand tale for fans of history, steampunk, and anything and everything in between.”

—Jesse Bullington, author of The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and The Enterprise of Death.

Heart of Iron is vivid and mysterious tale that takes the reader on an adventure through Steampunked Russia and beyond. A joy to read, Sedia has certainly delivered the Steampunk novel of 2011.”

—O. M. Grey, author of Avalon Revisited.

“Sedia (The Alchemy of Stone) superbly blends novel of manners, alternate history, and le Carré–style espionage with a dash of superheroes and steampunk. In a Russia in which the Decembrist revolution succeeded and Constantine never abdicated, 18-year-old Sasha is unexpectedly enrolled at university thanks to a challenge her aunt Eugenia issues to Constantine. Her initial concerns about sexism fade to the background once she realizes that Chinese students are vanishing. After a visiting British student named Jack, who has strange powers, helps Sasha prevent a kidnapping, she learns of a plot that could lead Russia into war with China, England, or both. Sedia assembles a nice list of supporting characters–the forceful Eugenia, the Russian soldiers and Chinese fur traders Sasha befriends, sinister spymaster Florence Nightingale–and Sasha’s often frustrated but always practical narrative voice smoothly carries the novel to its satisfying conclusion. (Aug.)”

Publishers Weekly, starred review.