Romanov by Nadine Brandes
Releases: May 7, 2019
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
I am a huge Anastasia fan--historically accurate versions and the not-so-accurate movie version we all know and love.
Someone, please give me tickets to the Broadway show!
So, while I was originally excited for this book, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.
Let's start with a brief synopsis, shall we?
The opening of Romanov brings us to Tobolsk, where the former royal family have been taken after the revolution to await their fates. The Bolsheviks move the family to Yekaterinburg where they are held as prisoners. They are basically starved and set on a strict regimen by the Bolshevik's that guard them. But, as Anastasia reminds us, her father would ask them to forgive their captors and remind them that the Romanovs are friendly faces. And that's exactly what the family does. Day by day, their captors grow less stern and more friendly towards the family, giving the Romanov's a renewed sense of hope: they could still make it out alive. Even Anastasia finds herself drawn to one of the soldiers: a young man named Zash. But, one fateful summer night changes everything, and it's up to Anastasia to wield spellmaster magic to keep herself, and her younger brother Alexei, alive.
It sounds rather exciting, right?
The beginning of the book takes a more historical approach, with only a little magic weaved in. The last half of the book is the largest fantasy part in the book, focusing the reader's attention on the magical elements we were introduced to in the beginning.
I was surprised to find myself more drawn to the historical section of the book rather than the fantasy half. I love historical fiction/fantasy, but I'm not sure the fantasy element in this book quite lived up to what it needed to be in order for it to really work.
What the movie lacked in historical accuracy, it definitely had in fantasy and magical elements, something that is switched around in this book.
I wish the magic system had been flushed out more because it definitely could have changed the tide in my reading of the book. It seemed like anyone could do magic, so why were the Bolshevik's so gung-ho about killing the spellmasters if they could have just used their ink? This could have been played with a lot more and the author could have really dug in, I think, and made the magic in this something to really remember, but it just fell a little flat with me.
Since the book was from Anastasia's point of view, I think the author took some liberties with how the Romanov's were perceived by the public and how she made Anastasia set the other character's tones. As a reader, I really liked the Romanov's, felt for them. Knowing history, I don't really think I should have felt that way. Should everyone, the kids included, have died? I don't think so. But, was Nikolai the ruler and figurehead Anastasia made him out to be? Not at all.
I liked that there was a slight romantic aspect to the story, because I'm a sap like that, but I don't think it entirely worked for me like I was hoping. I thought that his and Anastasia's ending was to clean-cut and fairytale-like for the murdery story we had gotten up to that point. Since the romantic aspect worked with Anastasia and Dimitri, I know it could have worked here, too--even if the Anastasia in this book was younger and the age she would have been when she died.
The ending, overall, felt like an afterthought after the harsh reality of the beginning and middle of the novel. I was even willing to overlook the parts that didn't really make sense--how was Anastasia able to carry her brother through the woods, let alone walk, after being starved for months, for example--in order to get to an ending that felt as well thought out as the beginning.
Not to mention the scene where she jumps onto a horse then onto a speeding train from said running horse.
Overall, I enjoyed the book for what it was!