Reading guide for The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Winter Queen

A Novel

by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2003, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2004, 264 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Confronted by an epidemic of suicides amongst his young countrymen, Erast Fandorin tells the highly experienced detective Xavier Grushin that "The very best of the educated young people are simply giving up on life—they're suffocated by a lack of spiritual oxygen." Explain the tension between the new and old generations in the novel, and why Fandorin thinks "living in your world makes us young people feel sick." How and why have aspirations—for career, money, public honors—changed for the disenchanted youth?

  2. What is the meaning of the code word "Azazel," and how does this rebellious demon figure in the anarchists' plot?

  3. Humor and coincidence figure prominently in the plotting of The Winter Queen. Describe Akunin's play on cultural perspective; for instance, in his characterization of "American Roulette." Also, how does Fandorin's luck come into play with the Lord Byron corset and the breathing practices of Indian Brahmin Chandra Johnson? Why is humor and chance so unexpected and thrilling in the plotting of a mystery novel?

  4. Describe Xavier Grushin; is he merely an "old duffer," or truly someone with a "genuine analytical talent," as Fandorin says? Further, how does Grushin compare with the seemingly ingenious Detective Brilling, both as a detective and as a man of character?

  5. During his interview with Fraulein Pfuhl and Lizanka, Fandorin is very conscious of his rank as "a civil servant, fourteenth class." After all, as Pfuhl emphasizes, "order is order." Describe the importance of rank in the novel, both on a romantic and an official level for Fandorin. Take a look at "The Table of Ranks" on pages 243 and 244; what would it have been like to live in a rigidly structured class system like that of Russia at the end of the nineteenth century?

  6. Solving the mystery of Pyotr Kokorin's public suicide turns out to be a far larger puzzle than even Fandorin initially had suspected. Describe the various principles of investigation that Akunin skillfully weaves into the narrative, such as cui prodest ("seek the one who benefits") and Brilling's deductive method. In the end, how does Fandorin's pluck and intuition solve the mystery?

  7. Lady Astair conducts her depraved orphanage based on the outwardly noble idea that "Finding one 's own path is the most important thing for anyone." Describe Astair's educational philosophies and the larger plot against society that it entails. What does the twisted baroness mean when she says: "One cannot clean out the Augean stables without soiling one 's hands."

  8. How does Akunin's sleuth compare with the famed detectives of other mystery novels? Discuss how Fandorin's moments of guilt, fear, vanity, and despair add dimension to his character, and how he matures over the course of his investigations and the novel.

  9. Compare Erast Petrovich Fandorin's love interests: the pure and innocent maiden Lizanka, and her foil, the dark Cleopatra, Amalia. By the end of the novel, a shocking catastrophe takes place on Fandorin and Lizanka's wedding day. How did this traumatic cliff hanger alter the tone of the novel? What changes have taken place in Fandorin, both physically and mentally in the course of the novel?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Random House. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Falling
    by Jane Green

    "Readers who enjoy a love story with heart will adore this tale of homecoming and transformation." - LJ

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!