Petrograd by Philip Gelatt is a graphic novel about an the assassination. It tells the story of an international conspiracy behind the murder of Gregorii Rasputin.
World War I is ravaging the world. Hunger, depression and despair reign, while only hardcore revolutionaries at the bottom of the food chain and those in the upper echelons of government cling to a drop of hope.
The powers that be think that Rasputin is urging the royal family to make a separate peace pact with Germany, which will free it to fight the war against England. Cleary, an unenthusiastic English spy, is stationed in Russia and has been given the most difficult assignment of his career: plan and devise the assassination of the most trusted advisor of the Tsarina.
This is mostly a historical thriller. The death of Rasputin has generated much controversy at the time and many more conspiracy theories, which are always fun and supply fodder for authors.
The story, while fictional, seems realistic enough to have actually happen (almost). Somehow illustrator Tyler Crook took the blighted atmosphere that authors try very hard to create and drew it. While I’m sure that many creative licenses were taken, as they are in every historical novel, I still enjoyed the story immensely.
But don’t let the words “graphic novel” fool you. Petrograd takes historical facts (as seen by Americans) and re-tells the story in the format of an espionage thriller. The sepia tones of the artwork well match the grayness of the spy world where the line between good and bad is impossible to distinguish.
The narrative is fast paced and efficient. Mr. Gelatt works around the era it is designed to introduce, but does not get too bogged down. What I really loved about the book that Rasputin, while a major player in the book, is always on the sidelines of the story but influences almost every action of every character. There are some complex issues introduced in the book (hunger, despair, monarchy, revolution and more) but the story manages to address them without lecturing.
The art in the graphic novel is both bleak and gorgeous. The pictures, mostly in sepia tones, tell the story in vivid detail and complement the espionage aspect of the book. As in every successful graphic novel, the combination of art and words is done magnificently, with care and attention to detail.
The packaging is well done and worthy of the price tag. The hard cover makes a wonderful presentation, the pages are on thick paper, printed clearly and are a pleasure to read and look through.
This book reminded me of: The Trinty Six by Charles Cumming
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