Cover Image: The Secret of Karabakh

The Secret of Karabakh

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Member Reviews

It took me a while to get into my groove with this one. Once I did I found the action to be fast paced and exciting. Thank you for the opportunity to read this one!
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Sometimes, historic detail and political insight adds to a novel. Sometimes, it clogs up an otherwise intriguing story and becomes a tad preachy. That's how I felt about The Secret of Karabakh. I almost wished the author had chosen to make up a place that doesn't exist and use that instead.

I felt we were being encouraged to take sides, and I just don't know enough about that part of the world to make such a decision. Nor did I feel that I was getting an independent view of the situation. As a consequence, I chose to skip a lot of the elements of "We're the downtrodden good guys and the Armenians are all nasty".

The story itself is quite interesting. An American girl studying archaeology in Cambridge, suddenly discovers that she isn't who she thought she was. As the book unfolds, with James Bond-like twists and turns and potential killers at every corner, Alana is whisked around Europe and the Middle East in search of her past and her lost heritage.

It's competent, moderately paced and without too many big surprises.  I quite enjoyed it. I did wonder how many Americans would be utterly baffled by the references to Downing Street (the street in Cambridge where Downing College is, not the home of the PM) but that's a minor observation.
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This book had everything I needed for a 5 star read. There was history, mystery, danger, some romance, and suspense. The author did such a great job writing this book. I feel like it was such a big story with so many details and pieces that it could've easily become disjointed and unwieldy. It could've felt "too big". But it's not. It wasn't. It's perfect. She wove the past and the present together seamlessly. I also love books where I feel like I learn something that I did not know before. Learning the history of the conflict in Azerbaijan was really interesting. I'd definitely read this again and feel like I got more out of each time. 5 stars!
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Rarely the meeting between historical fiction and thriller is a happy one. Set sometimes in different timelines and at different paces, the two genres may work in opposite directions and require a different narrative. But when such a wondrous encounter happen, the reader that may happen to be passionate about both, is left delighted.

The Secret of Karabakh by multimedia artist and writer Fidan Bagirova was my latest happy reading experience in this respect. The main hero of the story is Alana, an academic starting a career in archeology at Cambridge. She has the support of her wealthy family allowing her to focus on her career. But suddenly, things are getting worse and worse, as she is faced with a reality she was not aware of. She is faced with truths she was not aware of, shaking dramatically the base of her life itself. Fate seemed to have a different call for her and there is no way to escape. Sometimes, discovering who you really are is rooted in despair and life-threatening situations.

I loved both the idea and the execution, as well as the fact that it brings into the attention of the English-speaking reader the history and culture of Azerbaijan, which are rarely, if ever, portrayed. Interestingly, the book opens a door not only to the characters of the story, but to the reader itself, towards new worlds and new perspectives. And, as usual, knowledge is life-changing as it overcomes prejudice while acknowledging the human basis of us all.

The Secret of Karabakh is a captivating novel impossible to put down, with a strong cultural take. Definitely the kind of book that will make you curious and humble at the same time, because one may realize how big and diverse and challenging our world is.
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Alana, the main character never really fit in with her family. She finds out why, and an epic and dangerous adventure ensue.

I would have preferred less action and more character development. NetGalley had this book classified as “Literary Fiction” and the book description says it is perfect for fans of “The Goldfinch, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, and The Kite Runner”, however The Secret of Karabakh reads more like a Lifetime movie or a soap opera.
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This is the first time I read this author and I can say that it wouldn’t be my last. 

What would you do if you received a cryptic note??

“You are not who you think you are. Your future is not what you think it will be. You are in danger!”

This was written so well. So much information about the Middle East and the suspense was so well done. 

Alana Fulton is our protagonist and she received the note and everything changed. Everything she knew is being blown to pieces. 

A riveting and cleverly crafted novel.
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I received a complimentary ARC copy of The Secret of Karabakh by Fidan Bagirova from Net Galley, Lume Books in order to read and give an honest review.  

… a brilliantly intricate blend of mystery, thriller and historical fiction that takes you on a journey…

Alana Fulton, has it all, the only child of a self-made, jet-setting, wealthy couple, she is a well-respected student finishing her PhD in Archaeology at the illustrious Cambridge University and is in a relationship with a movie star…she is living the Dream. Her reality is shifted when out of the blue she is chased by a strange man, her dorm room is viciously ransacked, and it becomes clear she was the intended target of a terrorist attack at her dorm. During the investigation it becomes clear that both her and her movie star boyfriend are prime suspects in the case. After a mysterious encounter with a hooded figure a note is pressed in her hand that reads…

“You are not who you think you are.

Your future is not what you think it will be.

You are in danger…”

When the accumulated events become surreal, and fractured memories begin to surface, Alana’s dream life begins to become a nightmare. Alana becomes driven to stay alive and protect those she loves while unravelling the mystery of who she really is.

The Secret of Karabakh by Fidan Bagirova is a brilliantly intricate blend of mystery, thriller and historical fiction that takes you on a journey from London, to Cambridge, to Switzerland and finally to Azerbaijan. Rich with detail the author seamlessly blends the challenging history and rich culture of Azerbaijan with the page-turning plot keeps the reader reading into the wee hours of the morning. Filled with multifaceted, authentic characters including a refreshingly portrayed female protagonist who is intelligent, driven, strong and resilient. All in all, this book was a wonderfully original and engaging read, that I highly recommend.
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This book was very good!  It had a great plot and brought you into a part of the world I don’t know much about. Informative and enjoyable at the same time.  I would high recommend reading it!
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As Alana flees unknown pursuers and mounting danger, all that is familiar crumbles away. In time, it becomes clear to Alana why she’s being pursued; and she must ask herself where her loyalties and her future lie. This is definitely one of those special books that I will keep on my shelves to go back to and reread.  It says a lot that I am still thinking about this book a few days after finishing it!
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Thank you for allowing me to read this book. I loved the Kite Runner so right off the bat I knew I would love this.  A story that has politics and history is hard for me to put down. I can’t imagine making up one morning thinking that you aren’t who you think you  not are. 

Alana Fulton is a researcher at Cambridge.  She is stalked and her apartment broken into. She finds out that her boyfriends is actually spying on her.  This leads her to looking into her past which involves the history of  the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijani. 

This was a hard to put down novel that I loved.
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The Secret of Karabakh has a beautiful cover and a description that mentions The Kite Runner and The Beekeeper of Aleppo- I love the former and can’t wait to read the latter. So, I had high expectations before I started reading this and I am not disappointed at all! 

This is a gripping tale that has history, politics and archeology, that is hard to put down. Alana Fulton is a archeological researcher at Cambridge. Suddenly, things couldn’t get worse— she is being stalked, her apartment is ransacked, her boyfriend is paid by a stranger for spying on her, she was the target of an assassination attempt. Alana is unable to understand the recent developments in her life without delving into the past. A past that is closely tied with the history of Azerbaijan, and their conflict with Armenia. Fortunately, history is what Alana is deeply interested in. And she must learn the whole truth even when in mortal danger. 

A beautiful read that shed light on the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. A must read if you are interested in reading of the devastating aftermaths of war. 

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the ARC. I look forward to more works by Fidan Bagirova.
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The Secret of Karabakh by Fidan Bagirova tells the story of Alana, an Oxford doctorate student, who suddenly finds her life turned upside. Alana had a charmed childhood, the daughter of wealthy parents, educated in the best schools and wanting for nothing. One day, her Oxford apartment is broken into and she receives a note that says "You are not who you think you are. You are in danger." Alana has no idea what this note means, but so begins a topsy-turvy journey for Alana. 

This book aims to be an international thriller. It falls short. The plot felt very contrived and tiresome. It was, in turns, either easy to predict or incredibly difficult to follow. Alana proved to be selfish and unworldly and I found her to be very frustrating. I appreciate a headstrong, determined heroine. But an educated, well-traveled one who consistently acts without forethought is not my cup of tea. 

The story includes a fairly detailed history of Azerbaijan and its citizens massacre at the hands of the Armenians in the 1990s. This part was interesting from a historical point of view and I learned a lot about the Azeri culture and history. I felt that the author wanted to write a history book, but then added in a thriller-based fictional plot. 

Bagirova has story-telling talent. The historical sections flowed nicely and peaked my interest in an area that I previously knew nothing about. And perhaps that was Bagirova's main intent.

Thanks to #NetGalley for an ARC of #TheSecretofKarabakh
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The Secret of Karabakh by Fidan Bagirova is a cleverly-crafted blend of action thriller and historical fiction with credible characters in an authentic setting. As much as the several settings are vital to the story, the characters are the real stars.

Alana Fulton, the daughter of wealthy Americans is a devoted student of archaeology completing her PhD at Cambridge University when she becomes the subject of both a police investigation and sinister stalkers. After her university rooms become the centre of a terrorist incident and then investigation, she receives an anonymous note warning her that she is in danger. 

Her movie-star boyfriend becomes the subject of the police investigation and while on the run the pair are attacked by strangers who seem to be foreign. Alana begins to distrust her boyfriend when he confesses to receiving diamonds in return for protecting her. They escape the police investigation by private jet to Switzerland but their attackers follow. After a Bond-esque chase scene, Alana travels to Azerbaijan. Threaded through the action thriller is a gradually-evolving story of Alana’s real identity and real personal history. 

Also slowly revealed are the personal perspectives from the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia – a real and relatively recent and still unresolved conflict over territory, natural resources and cultural histories.

Rescued from near-death in Gstaad, Switzerland, Alana is given an ever-so-brief explanation of her real family origins before being whisked from Geneva to Baku, Azerbaijan. She is reunited with her grandfather, once the landlord/tribal leader of Karabakh now living in exile in Baku. Alana yearns to return to her homeland to untangle and clarify jumbled and vague memories of her terrifying childhood experiences of the war and fleeing from invading troops. From here, the story accelerated, the danger and courage, in equal measures, increased, as did the urgency of my reading. I quickly read through the last hundred or so pages to the satisfying conclusion.

Lingering notes… A few days after finishing The Secret of Karabakh I am remembering the high quality of writing, judicious combinations of dialogue and description of action to create a sense of pace, and the inclusion of so much accurate history that gave the book its meaning, as well as a vivid sense of place. I’m also left with clear feelings about the characters – the evil of some, the depth and devotion of others, and the courage and determination repeatedly shown by Alana.
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Thank you, NetGalley for an advanced copy of The Secret of Karabakh in exchange for a review.  I read this book quickly, during a cold, dreary weekend, and appreciate the escapism it provided.  

For those familiar with mystery-action-intrigue thrillers, this novel by Fidan Bagirova will evoke Dan Brown with its questions of identity, scenes of pursuit, and stunning revelations.  The academic protagonist of Bagirova’s novel is a woman, a refreshing change for a genre dominated by male protagonists.  Similarly, the socio-political context of the novel is also fresh, with its focus on Azerbaijani-Armenian tensions rather than those of western super powers.

The novel is not without its foibles, however.  The plot is heavily action-driven, with only enough character development and exposition to provide context for the narrative.  In some instances, the novel reads like an action movie, with short bursts of action and quick scene changes.  For readers with experience in the genre, the novel’s big reveal might not provide that hoped-for bombshell revelation.

As a first novel, The Secret of Karabakh demonstrates Bagirova’s storytelling skill and foretells a promising future in publication.
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