Romanov by Nadine Brandes
Published by Thomas Nelson on May 7th, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
“It is if you separate the two- old life and new life. But once you learn that it’s all one life and each day is a new page, it gets a bit easier to let your story take an unexpected path.” I
ARC received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I still remember the moment when I was introduced to the history of the Romanov family. I watched Anastasia with my sister in the old fashion movie theatre. Even though it wasn’t historically accurate by any means, I still fell in love with the story and the music.
While I only know the basic facts about the family, I was very excited to jump back into that world through Romanov. I squealed when I got approved for the ARC. And unfortunately, that’s where my excitement ends.
In Romanov, Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov has one mission: to smuggle a Matryoshka doll containing an ancient spell on her way to join her family in exile in Siberia. It’s the one thing that could potentially save the family from the leader of the Bolshevik army who is after them.
Despite the interesting subject matter, this book failed to keep my attention. Too much time was spent with the family in exile. Obviously that is a huge part of their story, but it was too limiting for the story to go anywhere. I started to feel just like the Romanovs — trapped without any hope of escape.
I understand what Brandes was doing by showing us how the Romanovs became prisoners and how they were trying to survive their monotonous life in exile, but a hundred pages about it seems unnecessary. Even during that exile period, we didn’t learn anything about the family. None of the characters had a real personality. And what we know about Nastya was spelled out for us. She’s the one who’s going to save her family. But who is she beyond that?
Not only that, it felt childish to read that the Bolshevik soldiers were evil and meanwhile the Romanov family was completely blameless. It portrayed the tsar as a kind and loving husband and father. But who was he as a ruler? There was no nuance there. I would have loved to read about his mistakes as a tsar, his guilt for failing his people in conjunction with how he was with his family. Nobody is purely one thing, but this book definitely made it seem that way.
The one thing that I thought was going to save this book was the magic system. It was a cool addition as a way to retell the story we all know well. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out because the magic system wasn’t fleshed out at all. I’m still confused as to how people become spell masters and how the magic ink comes into play.
And let’s talk about the romance. This novel could have easily done without it. I could smell the romance coming from a mile away and I wasn’t interested in it whatsoever. It seemed forced and I felt very uncomfortable reading about it. Why does Nastya fall in love with Zash? Because he was a handsome soldier who helped her out? Again, maybe the romance would have made more sense if we knew the characters better.
By the time we got to see any action in the book, it was too late. It would’ve been fun and exciting if we saw more of the chase and the aftermath of using the spells from the doll. Everything ended with a neat little bow with people living happily ever after, but nothing made sense.
This book was a miss for me and I wouldn’t recommend this. I didn’t learn anything new about the family or that period of time in history. It had a lot of potential, which is why I decided to give it a 2 out of 5 bubble teas. It just didn’t make use of the interesting historical events and it didn’t incorporate magic in a successful way. If there are other books that are about the Romanov family, please let me know!