Nine Layers of Sky —by Liz Williams
Fiction / Fantasy (Urban)
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Elena went from being an astrophysicist at Baikonur to being a janitor in her hometown of Almaty, who makes extra money buying and selling clothes on the black market. On her last trip, she picks up a small spherical object that is heavy, and oddly warm. As a scientist, she becomes curious and keeps it to study.
Ilya is 800 years old, a warrior of myth and legend, not quite human, but not sure of what he really is, who has one goal in life — to be able to die. Every time he is close to death, the rusalka come and heal him, against his will.
Ilya is hired to find the small, round object, and not only does he find it, he finds Elena, and together they discover the object can open gateways into an alternate Soviet Union, on another planet. Together, they must decide who gets the "key" and where they will live. Elena, the scientist does not know all the players. Ilya, the legend, does, and has spent 800 years hating and fearing some of them. But, are they who and what he has believed all this time?
I had a hard time putting this book down. I loved the characters, and the travel down the Silk Road in both universes. The ending came at just the right time, and was both satisfactory and conclusive. There are a few loose ends flying in the breeze here and there, but nothing serious, and perhaps, eventually, there will be a sequel?
I look forward to reading more books by Liz Williams.