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Literature / The Coronation

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The Coronation (Коронация, или Последний из романов, "Coronation, or the Last of the Romanovs") is a 2000 Russian novel by Boris Akunin. It is the seventh novel in the Erast Fandorin series of detective novels.

It is 1896 in Moscow, five years after Fandorin quit government service at the end of The State Counsellor. Nicholas II of Russia and his family have arrived in the city along with their family, including Nicholas's uncle Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, for Nicholas's coronation ceremony. One fine spring day shortly before the coronation, George's daughter Xenia and 4-year-old son Mikhail are taking a stroll in the park with Mikhail's French governess, Mlle. Emilie Declique. Suddenly kidnappers leap out of a carriage and attempt to snatch the princess. The kidnappers are chased away by two passers-by...Erast Petrovich Fandorin and his Japanese manservant Masa. But the group soon realizes that Mikhail has disappeared.

The Romanov family receives a note from one Dr. Lind, international criminal mastermind, demanding the priceless Orlov Diamond as ransom for the return of the boy. The Orlov, however, is necessary for the upcoming coronation. Fandorin, who has been chasing after Dr. Lind ever since their first encounter in America (mentioned in later Fandorin novel Jade Rosary Beads) is hired by the Romanovs to catch Lind and save young Mikhail.

The Khodynka Tragedy, a Real Life disaster in which nearly 1400 people were trampled to death at a Romanov celebratory banquet, is a prominent plot point.


  • Arch-Nemesis: Fandorin has followed Lind from New York all the way to Moscow over a period of several years. The reason that he and Masa are on the scene to save Xenia at the beginning of the novel is because Fandorin and Masa were shadowing one of Dr. Lind's mooks, suspecting correctly that something was up.
  • Author Avatar: Mr. Freyby, whose name is also a bit of Bilingual Bonus for the tech-savvy: if you try to type "Акунин" ("Akunin" in Cyrillic) on a standard Windows Russian/QWERTY keyboard with the language set to English instead of Russian you will get "Freyby".
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Averted. Ziukin is locked inside the basement of a gay nightclub and misses the entire coronation ceremony.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Russian title might be more properly translated as "Coronation, or the last of the novels"—note that "романов" is not capitalized. This is set up by the fact that the line is delivered by Mr. Freyby, who doesn't speak Russian and is struggling to use a Russian/English dictionary.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the Fandorin novels have endings like this but this one might be the most bittersweet since The Winter Queen. Lind is defeated, the jewels are retrieved, and Afanasii gets a sweet promotion for his service to the crown. Yet Afanasii's dreams of love with Emilie are shattered, Afanasii in turn destroys Fandorin's hope of happiness with Xenia, and little Mikhail is dead.
  • British Stuffiness: He's Russian, but Afanasii is this, a severely repressed man who can't express his feelings for Emilie and is appalled by all the debauchery he sees at court.
  • Call-Back: Afanasii recalls how he severed all contact with his brother Frol after Frol left service with the Romanovs to accept a position with "a Moscow millionaire, the banker Litvinov, a Jew." Litvinov is a character in the previous Fandorin novel, The State Counsellor, father to Fandorin's girlfriend Esfir.
  • Call-Forward: Mr. Freyby is of course entirely correct when he observes at the very end of the novel that Nicholas II will be "the last of the Romanovs." Afanasii also realizes that the future bodes ill.
    Afanasii: Of all the Romanovs, for some reason the Lord had chosen this one to lay on his feeble shoulders the heavy burden of responsibility for the fate of the monarchy.
  • Camp Gay: Lord Banville and Mr. Carr. Especially Mr. Carr, with his curled hair, who likes to pull on the beards of handsome footmen. Lord Banville borders on the Macho Camp.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Afanasii, so repressed and so bound up with his regard for court decorum, cannot make himself sit out his feelings for Emilie. (Although in the end that turns out to be for the best.)
    Emilie: Are you never going to say the words that I long to hear?
  • Chekhov's Gun: A seemingly innocuous comment when Afanasii tells Emilie to always make a habit to show up to appointments early. This sets up the final confrontation when Fandorin tells Afanasii to be at the park at 6 am but both Afanasii and Lind show up early...
  • Closet Shuffle: Izabella has to stuff Afanasii in a closet after her lover Pavel shows up, then has to stuff Pavel in a closet after her other lover, Pavel's father George, shows up.
  • Creepy Crows: A crow caws loudly in the park, and Afanasii (in his narration) wishes that he could have stopped time right there, before everything went to hell. The kidnappers show up immediately afterwards.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Dr. Lind is Fandorin's personal Arch-Nemesis, much like Prof. Moriarty was to Holmes.
  • Dramatic Drop: Poor Afanasii does this after seeing the Finger in the Mail package.
  • Either/Or Title: As noted above the original Russian title is "Coronation, or the Last of the Romanovs/novels".
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Afanasii is irritated to see Mr. Carr gazing out the window hungrily as Fandorin does his calisthenics on the front lawn of the palace.
  • Expy: As The Other Wiki notes, Akunin tweaked the Real Life identities of Nicholas II's three uncles. George Alexandrovich is named after Nicholas's younger brother but appears to be patterned after his uncle Alexei Alexandrovich—but Alexei had no children. Simeon Alexandrovich is named after Nicholas's real uncle Sergei Alexandrovich. And Cyril Alexandrovich is a stand-in for Nicholas's real uncle Vladimir Alexandrovich.
    • The prima ballerina Izabella Snezhnevskaya, mistress to several members of the Romanov family, is an Expy of Mathilde Kschessinska.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: Well, there's the opening scene in which Mademoiselle Declique abandons little Mikhail at the spot where he's kidnapped. And later, Afanasii notes that Declique has temporarily disappeared from the palace for reasons unknown. Freyby remarks that there must be a spy within the palace. No one can figure out how Lind's messages are getting inside the palace, as the mail is being closely watched—it turns out that Declique/Lind is writing them from the inside. Fandorin even stops at one point to consider the possibility that Lind might be a woman.
  • Femme Fatale: How Dr. Lind wins the loyalty of her minions.
  • Finger in the Mail: Includes a subversion of the ransom demand variation; the hostage was killed immediately after the finger was cut off as part of the villain's Evil Plan.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: As with the bulk of the novels in the Fandorin series, the story is not told from Fandorin's POV. In this instance the narrator is Afanasii Ziukin, a valet in the imperial household.
  • Funetik Aksent: Used to represent Afanasii struggling to communicate with Mr. Freyby via an English-language dictionary.
    "I looked up the words and said: 'Tenk you, Meester Freebee.'"
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Averted! "Queer", usually found in actual literature of the 1890s being used in the old sense, is used here in the modern sense. Pavel notes how his gay uncle Simeon has made the town hospitable for homosexuals. (In Real Life this was in fact around the time that "queer" first began to be used as a homophobic slur.)
    "What a queer place Moscow is these days."
  • He-Man Woman Hater: There's speculation that Dr. Lind is this due to the fact that his gang only contains men. However, see below under The Power of Love and Samus Is a Girl.
  • Historical Domain Character: The three uncles might not count as they are Expys of their Real Life selves, but Nicholas and Alexandra also appear. The tsar is depicted as a young man in his twenties just at the start of his disastrous reign, just as weak and vacillating as he was in real life, while the tsarina is a foreigner that no one likes.
  • Historical In-Joke: Was the Khodynka Tragedy a horrible accident? No, it was part of the evil machinations of Dr. Lind.
  • How We Got Here: Opens with a climactic shootout between Fandorin and Dr. Lind.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How Fandorin finally figures out that Declique is Lind. Mademoiselle Declique makes a joke out of Fandorin and Ziukin trying to use a crow to break open a door and rescue her, when she should have been in the basement unable to see what they were doing.
  • Legacy of Service: Afanasii is at least the third generation of Romanov court butlers in his family.
  • The Mistress: Izabella Snezhnevskaya is one to the entire Romanov family, having first been the mistress to Alexander III, then passed down to his son Nicholas (the future Nicholas II), then passed up to Nicholas's uncle George after Nicholas got engaged to Alexandra, then shared between George and his son Pavel. (As with most of the characters associated with the Romanovs in this novel, Izabella is an Expy for a dancer who was a mistress to both Nicholas II and one of his brothers.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Afanasii's attitude, as he is obviously enchanted with the glamour of monarchy and remarks on how one must honor and respect one's royal masters, even if they come home covered with vomit from a night of drinking like Pavel often does. His stonefaced reaction when he gets his promotion at the end, as well as his lack of confidence in Nicholas II to carry on the dynasty, indicates that Afanasii is growing out of this.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Afanasii's narration for 10 May ends with an angry Masa delivering a flying kick to the head after Afanasii mucks up their operation. The chapter for the next day, 11 May, consists in its entirety of "Saturday did not exist for me because I spent a night, a day, and another night lying in a dead faint."
  • The Power of Love: Very cynically exploited by Dr. Lind, whose multi-national gang consists exclusively of men who are madly in love with her.
  • Red Herring: Lord Banville is set up as the real identity of Dr. Lind, and Emilie, after being rescued from Lind's captivity, claims that Lind is Banville. In reality, Emilie is Dr. Lind.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Dr. Lind turns out to be a woman.
  • Sexy Flaw: Ziukin finds Emilie's broken Russian attractive.
  • Shout-Out: The novel is done In the Style of Sherlock Holmes and specifically, "The Final Problem", in which Holmes faces off against his Arch-Nemesis Prof. Moriarty. The shootout with Dr. Lind in which Fandorin falls off a cliff deliberately evokes Holmes's confrontation with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.
  • Sword Cane: The sword cane that Fandorin tools around with throughout the novel series finally gets put into service in this novel when he uses it to stab a kidnapper in the park.
  • Title Drop: The second half of the Either/Or Title is pronounced by cynical Mr. Freyby as the last line of the novel. Freyby thinks Nicholas II will be the last of the Romanovs.
  • Uptown Girl: A theme. Afanasii remembers how as a teenager he fell in love with a noblewoman he was serving, only for her to go off and marry a prince and die in childbirth. His great-grandfather raised himself from serfdom to nobility specifically to marry a noblewoman, only for said noblewoman to haughtily smack him down. And as the story is unfolding, Afanasii is horrified to see Xenia, a grand duchess, falling in love with commoner Fandorin.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Afanasii is not at all happy when Lt. Endlung, who has decided to tail Banville and Carr, follows them to the Elysium, a gay nightclub. Part of the reason that Afanasii is unhappy is that Lt. Endlung has dressed up as a woman—all the bottoms at the Elysium are men in drag.