I came across Russian born fantasy writer Ekaterina Sedia's alt-history novel, Heart of Iron in a post by the Little Red Reviewer. Sedia has written several novels and Heart of Iron is her latest work. I read the book a while ago and the story is a little hazy. The protagonist Alexandra Trubeskaya, the niece of an influential aristocrat is among the first women to attend university in Russia, much to the chagrin of certain conservatives. She quickly makes friends with another antagonized group - Chinese students including a young man named Chiang Tse. The Chinese students get thrown in prison on trumped-up charges and Alexandra with the help of a British double agent (I think?) travel overland to China by train to present themselves as ambassadors to the emperor in Beijing (I think?).