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 by Boris Akunin X
The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin
  • 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?
Free Book Club Report

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!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Treeborne
    Treeborne
    by Caleb Johnson
    The Treeborne family has lived on The Seven – the local sobriquet for a seven-acre stretch of ...
  • Book Jacket
    Grace
    by Paul Lynch
    Harrowing. Gorgeous. Epic. Grace, Paul Lynch's coming of age novel about a young woman, is set ...
  • Book Jacket: The Perfectionists
    The Perfectionists
    by Simon Winchester
    We seek precision in our lives every day. We want to drive from home to work and work to home safely...
  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Clock Dance
    by Anne Tyler

    A delightful novel of one woman's transformative journey, from the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Summer Wives
    by Beatriz Williams

    An electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power and redemption set on an island off the New England coast.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

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.