I’ve heard the name from friend after friend, the recommendations unending. And so I finally obeyed the chant, and read this book for myself.
To be honest, I had reservations. I desperately wanted to like it, but I also knew the true history of the Romanov family broke my heart and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle a book about their deaths and an explanation on how some didn’t die even though current evidence is strongly to the contrary.
However this book doesn’t try to change the history of how they died.
This book is a historical fantasy and that fantasy element does not apply only to how Anastasia “actually” lived. It adds in a completely new section of history. A faction of people called the Spell Masters, of whom in this story Rasputin is a unorthodox member with questionable methods (the man’s true character is unclear in the story, but the thoughts of him are more gracious then he actually deserves). These people have fallen out of favor in the Romanov’s fall and Lenin’s rise. Now typically, I do not appreciate magic in a world that is supposed to be ours. However the magic system was so unique and unlike anything in our actual world that I was to accept this an alternative earth. (Not everyone would probably be comfortable with this though if they dislike all types of “good” magic).
And it is in this alternative world that the Romanovs die...and the twist that results.
But enough of these tiresome explanations. It is now time to unleash my inner fangirl. Why did I love this book so much? UM. THE CHARACTERS????
Anastasia is probably the best, most believable heroine I’ve encountered...in a while (forever?) I don’t mean just that she’s likable and well-developed. I mean she could walk off the page and be my best friend. She’s mischievous, bold, compassionate, funny, frustrated, and she loves her family more than anything. She’s a sixteen year old girl struggling with a crush but not so overcome with the crush as to lose all other sense and priorities.. She’s sensible, strong, and she is fierce.
Zash....I wasn’t sure how I would like Zash. I’m not usually fond of the enemies to lovers trope, but I was eventually won over to his character for the pure humanity of his fear, mistakes, and anguish. He is a complex character looking through grey, cracked lenses. I think he was a very accurate portrayal of the confusion soldiers go through when forced to choose between duty and morality. By the time his layers were peeled back I was able to forgive him for his huge failures.
Alexei. ALEXEI. ALEXEI IS MY CHILD. I will huggle him, and I will feed him cookies, and I will wrap him in blankets, and he will appreciate none of that (except the cookies) because he is a teenage boy. He is such an AMAZING example of sarcasm, sweetness, and strong spirit wrapped up in weakened body. He was by far my favorite part of this book and happily plays a significant role. (Yay for siblings playing a significant role!)
Can I just say how REFRESHING it is to have a popular YA book without raging hormones heavy makeout scenes? There is only one kiss and it’s actually well-timed and non-described. THANK YOU, Nadine Brandes
Forgiveness, humility, kindness, and courage are huge themes in this heartfelt book. The Romanov family are a beautiful example of love, and it was so so SO hard to read moments of their happiness, hope of rescue, and eventual tragedy.
Even so this book ends on hope, and I am left with a heart full of new friends.