12 January, 2021

[Review] Romanov by Nadine Brandes

43814827. sx318
Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: 20 June, 2019
Publisher: Dreamscape Media LLC.
Genre: Young Adult Romance|Magical Realism|Fantasy|Eurasian Fiction
ISBN: 9781974927258
Edition: Audiobook (available in hardback, eBook, and paperback)
Rating: ★★
Review Written: 4 September, 2020
Warnings: Historical Death, Magic, Spellwork, Torture
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.

See more by Nadine Brandes at her website.
Like most children of the 1990s, I had a mildly unhealthy obsession with the Romanov family. The movie Anastasia from 20th Century Fox was released in 1997 along with books like The Royal Diaries series which fictionalized diaries of individuals with Anastasia's being released in 2000 (when I was 11).

That said, seeing this novel my interest was peaked. I enjoy retellings, I enjoy magic. I was hoping that I would love this novel. Spoiler: I did not love this novel. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it an interesting story line? Also yes. Was it historically accurate? In a half-assed kind of way.

The first half of the book is SLOW. It takes nearly half the book to lead up to the end of the Romanov family we all know is going to happen. The first few chapters alone are Anastasia (know as Nastya to her family) trying to find a way to smuggle the family's matryoshka doll with her from the house in Tobolsk to the one in Yekaterinburg. While in the Tobolsk house, Nastya meets Zash, a Bolshevik who has been charged with guarding her family and moving them from one city to the next. We later learn that he's also smuggling spell-ink, a forbidden substance in the newly revolutionary Russia, when Nastya attempts to find the matryoshka doll after it's been removed from it's original spot.

In Yekaterinburg, Nastya has to keep the doll on her person to prevent it from falling into Bolshevik hands. Here the family is at first treated like the royalty they are (were), with good meals and garden outings. Unfortunately, Anastasia's older sister Maria has fallen in love with Ivan, another Bolshevik soldier who is friends with Zash. Throughout their time at this house, things progressively get worse for the Romanov family, ending with the death of Ivan after he was caught fraternizing with Maria, and the replacement of their kind (yet drunk) commander with the one from Tobolsk (forgive me, I could say their names however I cannot spell them and I do not have a print copy of the book to copy from). Things pick up speed from here, as perhaps a week or two after the arrival of the new commander, the family is taken into the basement and executed.

The big betrayal is Zash shooting at Anastasia. We could all see it coming, he was going to be on the firing squad. As stated by Zash, "I thought it would help if you were killed by someone you knew." Personally, I'd hope I'd never find a friend standing on the other side of a firearm to shoot me, but I mean to each their own. The rest of the book is super fast paced. Anastasia and Alexei manage to escape using one of the spells within the doll (it's a spell that separates soul from body? Freezes you in stasis basically from the point the spell is enacted and reverses any damage done beyond that. I know it was so they'd have to struggle to survive, but honestly, it was a failure on Anastasia's part because she could have technically saved her family by enacting that word right as Tsar Nicholas was shot).

The rest of the book is a cat and mouse game between the two surviving royals and Zash as they race to find the spellmaster who can heal Alexei (with all of his wounds that are worsened by his Hemophilia). And the romance between Zash and Anastasia. That was... meh. It was Stockholm Syndrome at best, and poorly written and romanticized garbage at worst. While it's historically accurate that Maria did have feelings for a Bolshevik soldier named Ivan, Zash is like a Gary Sue in many regards, a self-insert of the author's imagination to shove an interest into the story to provide a feel good ending that wasn't quite as statement making as she probably intended.

Zash shot Anastasia. It's a point of contention through out the last 40% of the book. While he was traumatized by this fact, I feel that she would have been far more traumatized by this turn of events. She even points it out several times, "You shot me" "You betrayed me Zash." Both of these statements are brought up multiple times within the last 40% of the book. While I will say it was potentially important for Anastasia to let go of her anger and pain for her own sake, I don't know that forgiveness should have been extended to him. That'd be a very big thing to forgive in a span of four to five days, maybe a week at best.

Overall, if you're looking for a feel-good romance, I guess you might enjoy this book. If you're looking for a historical fiction that follows the real life of Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova, keep looking, this ain't it.

No comments:

Post a Comment