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I'm trying to identify a novel that I read some time ago. I think the book is actually the second or third book in a series; it's set in a fantasy style Russia/Prussia and follows a Russian minor noble, with Germans as the principal antagonists. There are four points in the story that I remember clearly.

Early in the series, as the main character goes into the field, he puts on a fur-lined great coat only to discover that the tailor has the grain of fur the wrong way around, and it makes it difficult to put the coat on. The prince instructs a lackey to go and give the tailor a flogging in a fit of temper. He relents and goes to call the lackey back when one of his other companions (a female magician) intervenes on the grounds the tailor was being lazy and disrespectful and a bit of a flogging was warranted.

Second scene; the German antagonists have taken on the services of a witch as part of a plot, and she has taken up residence in a German castle. The witch is extremely unclean and has inspired a burst of enthusiasm for washing by the German soldiery, who are horrified by her personal hygiene.

Third scene; the prince and his friends are planning or discussing some course of action, and the prince is looking at a map. The map suddenly redraws itself, much to his shock. He demands an explanation, and is told the map is magic and able to update itself; the explanation given by the same female magic wielder from earlier. The prince is somewhat chagrined by this reaction.

Final scene that I recall, in the process of getting armoured up for a dual, the prince's wife has insisted on lacing up the prince's gauntlet, but uses a simple bow and the prince doesn't have the heart to fix it. When the creature the prince fights turns out to be a phoenix, and bursts into flames, the bowtie means the prince can quickly ditch the gauntlet and allows him to avoid a serious burn.

I think I read the book in question sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s in a library, and the book seemed reasonably new so I believe the series would have been published around the early-to-mid 1990s. The novel also seems to allude to the prince having been killed and returned to life in a previous book.

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Firebird by Peter Morwood, the second book in the Tales of Old Russia trilogy.

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  • Published in 1992.
  • Second book in a trilogy.
  • Story is set in "Old Mother Russia", and there's at least one reference to the "Polish-Prussian border".
  • Main protagonists are a Russian prince and his wife.
  • Main antagonists are the Teutonic Knights (a German military order).
  • The Teutonic Knights employ the services of a "revolting" witch, Baba Yaga.
  • Story involves a "Firebird", controlled by Baba Yaga.

Description from netgalley.co.uk:

The bird will rise…

The flames will burn.

Prince Ivan and Mar’ya Morevna live a life of ease. Their household is in perfect order, and Ivan is learning more each day studying the Art Magic.

But all of that is about to change.

In Germany, a Holy Christian order of Teutonic knights sets their sights on the Rus. While overtly condemning them for their use of sorcery, citing witchcraft and blasphemy, Hermann von Salza, Grandmaster of the Order, secretly covets the power these magics can give him. He calls for the aid of Baba Yaga, who’s simmering hatred and desire for revenge against Prince Ivan make her a sensible, if revolting, ally.

Baba Yaga bends to her service a Firebird, cruelly misusing the noble creature, while Ivan gains a companion in the shape of a Grey Wolf.

Across the Rus, gruesome deeds and warnings are being carried out and no one can figure out how the deeds are done – or who is committing them…

Can Ivan and Mar’ya figure out who is targeting them?

Will they survive the plotting, and in doing so, be able to save the Rus?

Firebird is the gripping second novel in Peter Morwood’s Tales of Old Russia fantasy series featuring the inimitable hero Prince Ivan. Join with Ivan as he travels across Old Mother Russia, encountering incredible new people, fantastical creatures, and ancient magics as he matures into a future Tsar.

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    Yes, I have the book and it matches. The scene with the gauntlet is: The iron gloves weren’t a pair, so while Mar’ya Morevna simply secured the buckled strap that ran around his wrist between hand and cuff, the Tsaritsa had to lace a heavy leather cord though loops for that purpose between the smaller rings of mail. She had tied it in a bow and neither Ivan nor Mar’ya Morevna, both knowing full well how easily such a knot could come undone, had the heart to correct her mistake. Feb 10, 2021 at 9:04
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    Bingo, that's the one! Thanks
    – J. Doe
    Feb 13, 2021 at 4:51

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