Blood Red Snow White

320p. chron. Roaring Brook. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626725478.
Gr 9 Up—A historical novel based on the life of British author and journalist Arthur Ransome that is told in three distinct styles, each of which reflects an aspect of Ransome's career. It opens in the style of a fairy tale, brilliantly setting the scene in Saint Petersburg in 1913, when the bright, impetuous young writer leaves his wife and daughter in England, teaches himself Russian, and sets about collecting the stories that appear in his first book, Old Peter's Russian Tales, published in 1916. But by then, everything had changed. "The time for princes and tsars and grand duchesses and especially holy madmen was gone. In its place came a world of war and revolution, of tanks and telephones, of murder and assassination." Here the narrative shifts and uses flashbacks and the third person to report the events of the Russian Revolution and the civil war that followed back to the British press. Ransome becomes romantically involved with Evgenia, Trotsky's personal secretary, and is caught up in the dangerous game of political intrigue and information exchange. He becomes a pawn in the ongoing power struggle, and his every move is suspect, but he wants only to get himself and Evgenia safely out of the country. The narrative shifts to Arthur's first-person account of getting out and back into Russia and escaping with his beloved. An author's note, a time line, and Secret Service files are appended to inform readers about facts behind the spy thriller elements.
VERDICT This well-written tale might be a hard sell to a lot of teens, but those who are fans of Sedgwick's earlier titles, history buffs, and readers of Ransome's classic "Swallows and Amazons" adventures will be intrigued by this colorful and multilayered work.

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