The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Author: Nadine Brandes
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Page Count: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Cover Artist: -
My Rating: ★★★
I received an ARC of this book from Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this impact my overall rating or review of this book.
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
Content Warning Death, Execution/Murder, Violence, Oppression, Hostage, War
If you look at it, it’s still red. If you touch it, it’s still wet. But if you listen to it, it speaks a single name in a pulsing chant.
For that name alone, bound to my blood like a Bolshevik is bound to the Russian Revolution, I am destined to die. Because not even royal blood can stop bullets.
Romanov is not an easy read. The contents do not make it a “feel good” type of book, no matter how hard it may try. If you are familiar at all with the story of the Romanov family of Russia, then you know that this story doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s heartbreaking. Even so, Romanov is definitely a book worth picking up.
Papa held himself straight and regal, despite his short stature. We walked down the chilled corridor together. In silence. Ex-tsar and ex-princess.
The story is told from the perspective of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, also referred to by her nickname, “Nastya” throughout. Telling the story of her parents and four siblings, Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, and Maria, quickly reveals the strong and loving bond between the family. It’s evident that their likeability caused issues for the Bolsheviks holding them captive.
”Rasputin,” I filled in. “The people were afraid of spell masters because of him. They blamed the tsar.”
The thing that I loved most about this book was that all of the main, vital elements were there. Furthermore, the author masterfully uses all of these elements in this historical story and infuses it with magic. While the magic itself was wildly under-developed, including it in the narrative felt natural, like it really happened. (Thanks, Disney, for forever making me believe that there were magical elements to Anastasia’s story.)
Another great point about this book is that the author didn’t overly-criminalize anyone. Even the Bolsheviks who definitely did wrong, Anastasia offers a ground for neutrality in the end. Rasputin, although only minutely referenced, was not viewed in a negative light either. So more lore, if you will, surrounds his character as being evil. Maybe he was, but most likely, he wasn’t. Each person has a reason for the actions that they take. While some are not good, they may not have started out that way. A lot of good intentions easily run awry when people, politics, and passion without contemplation become involved. This is by no means an excuse for people’s wrongdoings. It’s a glimpse into how easily one’s intentions can quite literally, turn into a runaway train.
I finally realized why Papa always asked me to forgive. Because it takes more strength and courage to forgive than it does to enact revenge.
The biggest theme the resounds in this book is forgiveness, and just how hard of a thing it is. With such a difficult topic, it is so easy to root for revenge, and desiring ill upon those who wronged the Romanov’s. Anastasia, however, overrules revenge, which is such a harder thing to do. Forgiveness is freedom.
I know at this point that I’ve spoke this book a lot of praise, and believe me, it deserves it. Here comes the downfall of Romanov for me. There is very little world building. Even if this book is a historical fiction and the locations where it took place could be Googled, it’s not a safe assumption that everyone will even know who the Romanovs were! Anything based off of historical fact needs some prefacing, so any reader will know exactly who the book is about and where it takes place. Romanov is set in Tobolsk, Russia in 1918. For a large portion of the story, the family is being held in a house…but that’s basically all I know. I have no idea what the house itself was like, where it was set, and how the characters arrived from one place to another. It was incredibly disorienting to try and figure out where anyone actually was, and made it very difficult to immerse myself into the story.
Another point, which I mentioned briefly before, was that the magic itself needed more explanation. I loved the way in which the author used it, but I wanted more backstory on it, how it worked, and it’s origin. Overall, I still really liked this book, heart wrenching as it was. I believe it was well thought out, meaningful, and brought out something really special in the Romanov family’s tragic story.
Sexual content: Kissing only.
Violence: Quite a bit. There are several scenes of injury, some life threatening. Also a scene of an execution, and attempted murder.
My Rating: ★★★
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