Book Review: Romanov
Written by Nadine Brandes
Published by Thomas Nelson/ Harper Collins
Publication date: 7th May 2019
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 likes 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 was excited to read this as soon as I heard Nadine mention it in the Q+A I did with her just after Fawkes was published – here are my 5 reasons why:
- I have always been fascinated by the stories surrounding the Romanov family, so I was instantly interested in this.
- I previously read Fawkes by the same author and really enjoyed it, so I want to read this too. Hope it is even better!
- When interviewing Nadine Brandes, she mentioned that her next project would be about the Romanov family, specifically Anastasia – this was added to my TBR immediately after that interview.
- While I have yet to visit Russia, I love the history, culture and folklore so would like to go there someday. Set your book in Russia and I will probably read it for that reason alone!
- Magic, in a story which already sounds great? Magic (usually!) makes everything better. I am really excited to see how the inclusion of magic changes the story, as well as getting to know one of the Bolshevik soldiers and see things from his perspective.
My blood is my crime. 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. Romanov. Romanov. Romanov. 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.
So, did it measure up to my sky-high hopes and expectations?
Spoiler, yes it did!
I knew that I had to read this as soon as I heard that it was going to be based around the exile of the Romanov family, a story which has captured imaginations around the world, particularly with rumours that the youngest two children may have survived. I was also intrigued by the mentions of magic and enjoyed this aspect of the first book I read by this author, Fawkes.
Each member of the family is lovingly illustrated, yet the reader can never fully relax knowing the tragic end that is drawing nearer.
I loved Nastya and her determination to find the magic in small moments and stick up for her family in every situation. Zash, her love interest, was someone who I found it really hard to get a handle on. Sometimes, he was kind, while at other times he seemed callous. I was fascinated by the hints to his background and got the impression that there was a lot there that the reader didn’t necessarily see. I was on tenterhooks during their first small overtures, leading towards a potential relationship, but, ultimately I found myself more interested in Nastya and her family than in the romance.
This is an imaginative, well-researched retelling full of magic, hope and love, despite the inevitable sorrow.
No soldiers filled the library, but I browsed the shelves in any case, maintaining a constant posture of innocence—one of my more prized talents. I stopped at a book of poetry and flipped it open, scanning the words but thinking only of Papa’s departure— No. Of Papa’s mission. I would not think of the fact he was gone. I would not. We would be together again.
I snapped the poetry book closed and strode to the case that held Pushkin’s works. My fingers tingled, though I let them hang by my side while I searched with my eyes first. Nothing appeared different about the set of spines, but the bookshelves were deep. I slipped one book from the shelf, glancing into the dark space behind it.
Red and gold paint resisted the shadow. A shimmer of secrets. Of hope. Of adventure. The Matryoshka doll. I dipped my fingertips into the shadow.
“You should not be in here unattended.”
My nerves scraped against my skull at the sudden voice, but my body did not react— trained to resist reflexive surprise. Everything within me wanted to snatch my inquiring hand back and pretend I’d seen nothing.
Instead, I lifted my head and slipped on a smile. “Is reading so dangerous?”
I almost choked on the last word when my gaze landed on the source of the voice. Soldier.
What I liked: I have always been fascinated by the story of the Romanov family, so was interested in seeing it re-imagined. I liked the character development throughout and how magic was threaded through so subtly, but in a way that really added to the the story. I fell in love with Nastya and her family, their relationships and how they were described.
Even better if: Honestly, I thought that this was pretty near perfect, as a fantasy/ semi-historical story! My only niggles come from the fact that we already know where we’re heading, so it is impossible to fully believe in even the happy moments in the book. An awareness of the historical events that surround this story could also hinder your enjoyment slightly. The authors keeps close to lots of real events, but skims over others and reduced the complexity of the situation to something a bit more black-and-white. Knowing that this is about real people also gave me a bit of a pause.
How you could use it in your classroom: This would be a great recommendation for anyone who enjoys retellings. It would also be fascinating to read if you’re studying this period of history and want to read a story set during the Russian Revolution, although it would have to come with the proviso that Nastya’ s view of her father is quite romanticized and doesn’t acknowledge that he was anything but a perfect ruler.
About the Author
Nadine 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.
What did other bloggers think?
Mandy @DevouringBooks said:
“The magical elements provided a source of hope in really dark times ant the story revolves around the importance of family.”
Jess @FictionNoChaser said:
“If you love historical fiction you have to read this book. The fantasy is minimal and adds a fun element to the mystery of princess Anastasia.”
Listen to Chapter 1 of Romanov by clicking here.
Check out all the other stops on the blog tour:
The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Dream Within A Dream – Review
YA/NA Book Divas – Review
Utopia State of Mind – Review
A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Review
It Starts at Midnight – Review
We Who Tell Stories – Review + Playlist
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Thanks for reading!