ROMANOV by Nadine Brandes is a magical and optimistic book focusing on the last few months of the Romanov family — including the legendary Anastasia — before and after the family is executed by the Bolsheviks. I received this ARC on behalf of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This post CONTAINS SPOILERS.
If you would like to read the spoiler-free post click here. To begin, here is the summary and a quick review before the extended 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.
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Why I was interested: I have always loved the story of Anastasia since I was a toddler renting the animated movie from good ol’ Blockbuster. As I got older, I grew to appreciate the history surrounding her family and also the legends that followed her death. Aslo, I received FAWKES by Brandes for Christmas and I was fascinated with how she would make this sad story become something magical.
Judge a book by it’s cover: It’s a very pretty Russian-inspired cover. My only note is that the dress feels slightly outside of the 1910s time period (my first thought shouted the 1700s…so it did throw me off a bit).
What to expect: While magical, this story does lead up to the historical assassination of the royal family which I have yet to see in YA and can be brutal if you know what is going to happen. However, there is some really great optimism in this story, and I appreciate how much care Brandes takes to be historically accurate with how the family acted with the soldiers that kept them under house arrest and how the children grew up.
Why you should pick this book up: This is definitely a more historically accurate Anastasia story so if you loved the original animation or, more so, the Broadway show, then this book is perfect for you. It is a standalone if you are interested in that aspect, and once you get to about 30%, you won’t be able to stop (so expect a nice late night of reading).
Want more?: ROMANOV is a standalone, but Brandes other story, FAWKES, a historical fantasy focusing on the history behind Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, is available to read.
ATTENTION: IF YOU HAVE YET TO READ ROMANOV do not continue reading. The following contains spoilers for the book.
ROMANOV is a familiar and yet fresh take on the Anastasia legend. Personally knowing the history from reading books for classes and knowing the legend (or at least, the animated fairy tale) growing up, I was well-prepared heading into reading it. What drew me in was knowing that the firing squad scene which executed the Romanovs was not the end but somewhere in the middle, and with a dash of magic, I was very curious to see how Brandes would take this strongly history-based story and turn it inside out with the use of the fantasy genre.
I find historical fantasy more and more fascinating everytime I read a book in the sub-genre. It’s a crafty challenge to be both historically accurate and yet bring in a magic that would makes sense in a semi-alternate timeline. So as my history-laced mind kept on racing knowing at some point soon the firing squad scene would appear, while appreciating the accurate historical details, the use of magic really helped ground the story.
I kept on wondering how Brandes was going to continue the story after they were all supposed to be dead and yet sort of stay true to the legend that Anastasia was able to escape, miraculously survive, and live the rest of her life.
And once that middle scene appeared, I received my answer.
Using magic to stay alive did not seem like the easy way out in this story. If anything it felt true by the idea that the magic lived within the family’s individuals — just like how the legends seem magical to us that supposedly Anastasia did not die but survive like a fairy tale.
At first the magic took me a minute to understand how it worked: that there was an out-of-body experience for Nastya and Alexei and whatever happened to their physical forms once they left did not truly impact them but rather magically heal to the point in time of that departure once they returned felt new and interesting.
But truly the last spell of saying “Romanov” was the most fierce as it encompassed all the family believed in — befriending the soldiers, not escaping in fear of them being hurt, being a close-knit family — shined when Nastya not only saved her friends and Alexei, but also the story’s villain, sending everyone off for a second chance in hope for the future.
ROMANOV is a well-told and well-written historical fantasy, and I look forward to reading my copy of FAWKES soon.
What did you think of Nadine Brandes ROMANOV? I’d love to hear your comments below!
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