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 saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to 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 received this book in exchange for an honest review through Netgalley. I read Nadine Brandes’ previous book Fawkes last year and enjoyed her fantastical spin on historical events. I was exciting to read her take on Imperial Russia, as Anastasia and the Romanov’s have always been an interesting piece of history. I was interested to see how magic would play a role in this historical fantasy.
Nastya as a main character was a fun and interesting narrator. She is mischievous, smart and sometimes a bit rash, but overall well meaning. While I’ve never been in a situation like hers, I found her easy to relate to and even likable, which I often struggle with when reading first person novels. Additionally, her love interest and foil character, Zash, was also compelling. While Nastya’s history is famously well known, Zash was a completely mystery. He and the other supporting characters were beautifully fleshed out and enjoyable to get to know.
It was clear that Brandes did extensive research for the setting of her novel. While I’m not sure exactly how accurate each event in the early sections of the book are, she definitely adhered to the general events leading up the Romanov’s deaths in a way that felt believable. I enjoyed seeing history through the narrator’s (and the author’s) eyes and the world set up in the story started some interesting conversations in my house. Her authenticity (with just a bit of fantasy) in her writing of the setting of the novel created an educational and exciting read.
The plot of the book was compelling and the twists and turns in the story, despite what I know of the history of the family, kept me hooked to the page from the first chapter. Brandes perfectly weaves fantasy into the factual in this book, even more believable than in her previous novel. However, the first section of the novel, leading up the “big twist” that really kicks off the fantastical into high gear, was a bit slower than I would have liked. While this book was a fun read, I wanted to get to the real meat of the book a bit sooner than almost halfway through.
Romanov is Nadine Brandes’ latest historical fantasy novel. She takes on the Anastasia and Imperial Russia , weaving magic throughout factual events. The first stage of the book took longer than I expected, but I still felt pulled along by the story and thoroughly enjoyed the plot. Natsya was a likable and exciting narrator and I loved getting to know the other characters. I highly recommend Romanov to any fans of Imperial Russian history or Anastasia in general.