I’m reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and, sadly, it does not work for me. This is partly a personal problem–I grew up with Russia, I took Russian in college, I have eaten Russian food and danced Russian dances. I will always be hypercritical of depictions of Russia & Russian culture. But it’s not just personal issues. There are major problems here, including the fact that Alina Starkov should be Alina Starkova. The Russian part is downright sloppy–Ruby as a personal name? Mal as a nickname? Mis-translations? (Moi soverenyi p. 43 is plural when it should be singular.) These things should have been edited. You can’t stick in a few Russian names and allusions to Rasputin and have a Russian-inspired book. It doesn’t work like that. And I know–BELIEVE ME–that it’s hard to write about a culture that’s not your own. That’s why you get someone familiar with that culture to read your ms before you publish it.
These are the exact problems I had with The FitzOsbornes at War–a decent story ruined by sloppiness. If I can’t trust the author to get something as basic as the proper form of a woman’s last name right, how can I trust them at all?
I know this is pretty harsh, but Alina Starkov? REALLY?