History That Never Was

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Review of The Sparrow in Hiding by J. Kathleen Cheney

The Sparrow in Hiding by J. Kathleen Cheney (2016) is a historical fantasy novella that blends Russian history and fairy tale into a gorgeous story about secrets, love, and recovery.

The story is told from the perspective of two characters, Irina and Evgeny. Irina is a wealth young widow staying at her family’s summer estate, while Evgeny is a hired man who takes care of the aviary. From the beginning of the story, there are hints of magic and the supernatural as part of Irina’s life, which are worked seamlessly into the narrative. Evgeny, too, has more than his fair share of the magical and supernatural in his life, as do some of the secondary characters.

All in all, this is a historical novella that does a lovely job of integrating and explaining the history without feeling like a lecture; a romantic novella that doesn’t lay on the romance novel tropes too thickly; and a fantasy novella that takes a somewhat lesser known fairy tale and weaves it in to the other elements seamlessly. If you enjoy books like Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, and are looking for another book in that vein, check out The Sparrow in Hiding!

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