The coronation : the further adventures of Erast Fandorin

by Boris Akunin

Other authorsAndrew Bromfield (Translator)
Paperback, 2010




London : Phoenix, 2010.


Fandorin returns in a swashbuckling tale of abduction and intrigue, set during the build-up to the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Literary_butterfly
I had never heard of Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin mysteries until I went hunting on the internet for another book narrated by a butler. The series is massively poplar in Russia (think Harry Potter and you'll be close) and has been translated into English by Andrew Bromfield. The Coronation is the seventh book in the series.

Erast Fandorin is a celebrated detective who seems to be more in the mould of Sherlock Holmes than Hercule Poirot. After a rather slow start, Fandorin first appears in the book as a stranger who saves one of the Tsar's cousins from kidnap, but unfortunately allows another cousin to be kidnapped instead. It soon becomes clear that the kidnap has happened on the orders of Fandorin's arch-enemy, the Moriarty-esque Dr Lind - a baddy with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. The ransom demanded is a diamond without which the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II cannot take place. Fandorin is employed to attempt to retireve the child without handing over the diamond - the loss of which would apparently bring more shame and distress to the royal family than the kidnap and death of its youngest member.

The book's narrator is Afenasii Ziukin, butler to one of the Tsar's uncles. I can see why authors find it a useful device to use a servant as narrator - by their nature they are present at most of the action but are able to comment on it dispassionately. However Ziukin gets himself involved in the action, taking it upon himself to try to investigate the case and carry out several daring missions of his own - most of which end in disaster or with the need to be bailed out by Fandorin. Every detective must have a bumbling sidekick and Ziukin is certainly Fandorin's.

I suppose it's always going to be difficult jumping into a series halfway through - in fact it's something I don't usually do. The Coronation does, in fact, work fairly well as a stand-alone book, but I probably missed out by not knowing any of Fandorin's back story. I think I was supposed to like and trust Fandorin from the beginning, but in common with Ziukin, I had never met him before and consequently didn't warm to him very much. In a way this didn't really matter, as Fandorin is less the protagonist of the book than Ziukin himself, and I did very much like the butler's character.

I can only assume that Akunin has read The Remains of the Day and I wouldn't be surprised if this book was an intentional homage to Ishiguro. Like Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Ziukin is pompous, obsessed with the idea of dignity and utterly blind to the attentions of his female colleague. He is, however, brave (to the point of stupidity) and flawed enough to appear human. Very few of the rest of the characters made much of an impression on me. To be honest I had a hard time differentiating one from another, especially as they tend to be referred to variously by their given name and patronymic, or their surname. Working out who was who was sometimes a challenge.

One element of the book that I really liked was its basis in Russian history. The coronation of the title is that of Tsar Nicholas II and Akunin makes use of several events of the time, including the Khodynka tragedy, in which over a thousand people died in a stampede at the coronation festivities. Akunin obviously knows his period well and pays minute attention to historical detail which makes the book really fascinating and entertaining reading.

On the whole though, I found the book rather difficult reading. I struggled to get into it, and even when the action began I just wasn't gripped or convinced enough by the story to care too much about what happened. Most of the action sequences verged on the farcical, which made the book a fun read but not one that I was able to get too emotionally involved in. Having said that, I loved the plot twist at the end, which I absolutely hadn't seen coming and which finally gripped me - just a little too late.

I can't say that The Coronation has turned me into another of Akunin's many fans, but I feel a bit bad dismissing a book that comes so late in the series. At some point I'll probably give a Fandorin book another go and see if the detective or his author can change my mind.
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LibraryThing member polarbear123
What I like about the fandom in books is that akunin finds a way to breathe new life into each mystery. Here the narrative is from the point of view of the butler. Weird at first but a master stroke as the story goes on. A class act
LibraryThing member AssaphMehr
This is one book that deserves six stars. By far my favourite of the Erast Fandorin novels, a series of tremendous novels.
This is a must read, for anyone who enjoys historical detectives, Tsarist Russia or plain good fiction.


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