Author: Nadine Brandes
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Imprint: Thomas Nelson
Publisher: HarperCollins Christian Publishing
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ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.
A YA historical fiction with a magical spin, Nadine Brandes’ new work re-imagines the story of the youngest daughter of the family Romanov.
The history books say I died.
They don’t know the half of it.
Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them…and he’s hunted Romanov before.
Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She liks him. She thinks he might even like her…
That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad…and he’s on the other.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started on this book. Growing up on Disney’s Anastasia, I’ve long been fascinated with the unfortunate young Grand Duchess’ story. The thought of her escaping and surviving her family’s fate was a wishful thought, and I guess that was what I was hoping to read about.
Nadine Brandes, however, had other plans.
Romanov puts a magical spin to Anastasia’s re-imagined story. With spell masters hunted by Bolsheviks keenly intent on bringing down the Russian monarchy, this book was an interesting one that mixes fact with fiction. Brandes did an excellent job balancing history and finding just the right parts of it that she could stretch to fit the story she wanted to tell.
Research, of course, was key.Brandes did a lot of reading and digging to set a steady base for this story to stand on. This was most prominent in the first half of the story where details of the Romanov family’s lives were detailed and narrated. Some of the facts included in the story I already knew about from reading books and documentaries, but others were new to me. I didn’t know that Anastasia, or just Nastya to her family, was a mischievous girl. She loved pulling pranks on just about everyone and was even called shvibzik or imp in Russian. It was definitely a nice bonus learning more about the family and the way the author dropped the historical gems she found in her research brought them to life for me, made them feel more human than the history books could and would ever do. If you’re a history geek like me, you should definitely read Nadine’s author’s note at the end of the book. In it, she talks about what’s true and what parts of the story she played with to make this book.I loved Nastya and Alexei. Maria, too. Zash, meanwhile, grew on me as I continued reading. For me, their characters were the most formed and the most entertaining. They made me laugh and giggle with their shenanigans, made my heart ache for them as they slowly lost hope and, definitely, made me go “Tsk, don’t do that. Stop” a number of times.
Nastya, however, has a special place in my heart. She was a bright and curious girl. She loves her family and would do anything for them. I felt for her. Having been betrayed by the person you were starting to fall in love with and watching your whole family and the most loyal of your staff murdered is enough to crush anyone. But Nastya, though weighed with pain and grief, had to do what she can to help herself and Alexei escape and survive. It was her determination, not the powerful spells, that made her beat the odds set against her in the end.I loved most of Nadine Brandes’ additions and changes as they lent Nastya’s story more color. However, there were still a few things that, while I didn’t outright hated, felt unnecessary to me. Zash was an interesting character by himself with his own motives and different background and personality that sets him apart from the Romanovs. However, his and Nastya’s romance felt forced. In all honesty, these two were more pushed together rather than having chosen each other on their own accord. In all honesty, I would have been happy enough with them being friends. Their relationship felt unnatural to me.
Overall, Romanov was a wonderful re-imagining of history. Magical and intriguing, this story has family at its core. Fans of Nadine Brandes’ other YA historical fantasy Fawkes will definitely go heart eyes for this book. YA historical fiction lovers will find a lot to love in this one as well.
NADINE BRANDES once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. She’s the author of Fawkes and of the award-winning The Out of Time series. Her inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When she’s not busy writing novels about bold living, she’s adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. Nadine and her Auror husband are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom