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Review: Romanov - Nadine Brandes

Romanov by Nadine Brandes
My rating: {★★★★☆}

YA Historical Fantasy Fiction
Published May 7th 2019 by Thomas Nelson

Source: Review copy sent by Publisher via NetGalley
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 voluntarily read and reviewed a review copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used are from an advanced readers copy and may not be present or the same in the published version**

The Romanovs... Anastasia... The Russian Revolution.

Unfortunately I am not well versed on any of these topics. I knew very little about the revolution and the Tsarist autocracy; I have never watched Anastasia and I had never delved in to the conspiracy theories that flew regarding the deaths of the Romanov family. Nadine Brandes ignited an interest I never knew I would have and this turned out to be a very interesting read for me.

It takes more strength and courage to forgive than it does to enact revenge

First and foremost the thing that I loved most about this story was the bonds of family and the Romanovs deep seated loyalty to each other and their patriotism to their country. I also loved that Brandes wrote Tsar Nicholas II as both a man and father to look up to, a pillar of strength and support for all the Romanovs in their time after his abdication. He was not incompetent or weak in this story and both his love for his family and his country were clear. Is it idealised? Yes. Is it going to be 100% true to history? I doubt it, but that's where creative license comes in and Brandes also added an intriguing magic system of Spell Masters and their Spell Ink and I enjoyed the way the story of the mystic Rasputin was woven into the threads of history and fantasy.

Nastya (Anastasia) herself was a great character to follow. Her strength and persistence spoke to me and her mischievous nature coupled with her love for her family carried the story.

I’d not mourn the lost good memories— I would apply them to my heart as a poultice every time it ached. That was what positive moments were for— to help heal the wounds of the future. As long as we chose to remember them.

Alexei was also a wonderful character, full of charisma and spirit and his complete defiance to let his disorder stop him from living a life he wanted to live endeared him to me.

I definitely preferred the first half of the book in which the Romanovs were captives and I got to see their familial bonds and learn about their past from the eyes of the author. It's also the half of the book firmly rooted in history which gave it a soundly plotted course and you begin to learn abut the fantasy elements. The second half seemed to meander a bit and I wanted it to be more goal orientated; to understand what the characters were aiming for. I guess we were all a little lost - Nastya herself wasn't sure of her course.

Unfortunately this is not a story where the protagonist triumphs over all and saves everyone, no matter how much I wanted the magic to prevail and no matter how much I wanted a better payoff for both Nastya and for me. It is a moving, darkly written story; bittersweet and full of heartache; but also full of hope, love and forgiveness and I am glad to have had the opportunity to read it.

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