Set against the unparalleled extravagance and artifice of 18th century St. Petersburg, a world of ice palaces and opera and masquerade balls, The Mirrored World is the reimagined life of St. Xenia, one of Russia’s most beloved holy women. Narrated from the point of view of her younger cousin Dasha, a devoted friend and companion, The Mirrored World follows the friends from their younger years in the lower nobility through the tragedy and madness that transforms Xenia into a revered angel of mercy to the poor and a controversial figure to the upper classes.
Dasha is a young girl in 1736 when her widowed aunt moves into their St. Petersburg home, bringing with her two daughters: Nadya and Xenia. Dasha becomes a devoted third sister, especially to Xenia, a passionate and caring dreamer. Years later, their mothers bring all three girls out into society at once, and their debut, at one of Empress Elizaveta’s extravagant weekly Winter Palace balls, will change their lives forever.
On the night of their debut, Xenia falls madly in love with a singer in the empress’s imperial choir, a charming and handsome soldier with friends in high places. The two marry after a whirlwind courtship, and the newlyweds welcome the painfully shy Dasha into their home. But the loss of Xenia’s first child, followed by the tragic death of her beloved husband, sends the now-twenty-six year old into an excruciating, deep depression. When she does emerge after weeks in a trance-like state and still inconsolable, she empties her purse giving alms to the beggars outside church and in the square. Surrounded by the poor and the homeless, Xenia, in defiance of her family, begins giving away her possessions. She even gives her house to Dasha and the man she believes will be her cousin’s husband, the city’s most celebrated Italian castrato. Satisfied that Dasha is cared for, Xenia disappears from St. Petersburg.
Eight years later, much has changed for Dasha. Her own beloved husband has died, and she struggles to adapt to life as a widow. Xenia reappears in the worst slums of the city, dressed in the rags of her dead husband’s military uniform, answering only to his name. A soothsayer and healer, Xenia becomes famous throughout the city, perceived by many as a sharp rebuke to the lavish excesses of the court of the new empress, Catherine the Great.
Richly told and elegantly written, The Mirrored World is a moving historical epic that reimagines the transformation of a regular girl into one of history’s most treasured and mysterious saints.
The Mirrored World