An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Ok time to hold my hands up here, while I’ve seen the 90s hit film Anastasia, I don’t really know much about the true story of the Romanov family… however when I read about this book in the Harper360 newsletter it piqued my interest right away and I crossed my fingers and requested a copy for review.
This was my first time reading anything by Brandes; I’d heard great things about her previous novel Fawkes, so I was looking forward to digging into Romanov. I finished the book in only five days which is actually pretty good when it includes weekdays where I work 8.30 until 5pm! Keep on reading for my spoiler free review.
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.
Starting this book, it wasn’t long until the action kicked in. While it was nice to dive head first into a story that didn’t take pages and pages of setting the scene, I do feel that the reader would have benefited to some sort of introduction, particularly those who are unfamiliar of the history behind the Romanov family.
Despite the quick start, it didn’t take long to get to know the characters and understand the relationships between them. My particular favourite characters had to be Anastasia, or Nastya as she is fondly known, and her brother Alexei. The strong familial ties throughout the story were almost tangible, and it was lovely to read about this loyal and loving bond. Funnily enough the characters came across older than they actually are which was a little confusing at times. For example, Alexei’s words and actions felt like they came from a much older place than his 12 to 13 years.
The threat of danger hung like a heavy blanket over the story. With very few locations in the first 60% or so of the book, the feeling of imprisonment and claustrophobia was intensified and I really didn’t know what to expect each chapter. While I didn’t know the exact story, or alleged story, of the Romanov family, I knew it did not end happily but the outcome was still very emotional and shocking!
The magic system in the story was definitely intriguing and unlike any I’ve read about before which added another interesting layer to the story.
There was a romantic element to this story alongside all of the oppressive danger. While I am not adverse to a good romance, it was a little hard to believe that the chemistry between the characters in the main romance was coming from a ‘real’ place. However, in the face of an undetermined and unknown future would you not want to find companionship? The romance was also forbidden which at times posed a threat to the family but I was glad to see the characters have a little slice of happiness, for however long it lasted.
In terms of pacing, it was fairly slow throughout the first half or so of the book. There was a small amount of action right at the beginning but once the family had made their initial journey it slowed right down. This cannot really be helped because of the turn the story takes but when the action picks right back up again it almost felt like another story entirely.
I have read reviews commenting on the historical accuracy of the story though I cannot comment on this as I am not a big history buff, however I understand that the last several chapters are definitely fantastical as they follow Nastya after a tragic event that affects the entire family.
Romanov is a story filled with love, loyalty and unrelenting strength in the face of almost certain death. It’s a book definitely unlike my usual preferences but I enjoyed this foray into the new (for me) genre of historical fiction. Huge thanks to Harper360 for sending me this copy for review – I rated Romanov by Nadine Brandes 3/5 stars.
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