In Love with the Romanovs

RomanovRomanov by Nadine Brandes

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

No amount of age, pride, or maturity could stop me from loving my papa with the heart of a little girl.

I wonder why books that make me cry always make it to my list of favorites? I’m not a masochist, but I guess there’s something delightful about mourning over the demise of my beloved fictional characters. Just reading the given quote makes me emotional because the family relationships in this sophomore novel were spectacular!

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Romanov is another retelling of the life of Anastasia. However, unlike its peers, the plot is mostly loyal to what really happened to the Russian royals. If you’re familiar with that dark time in history, the horrible things that happen to the protagonists might not shock you. I delved into the story with a Disney mindset, so you can guess how that turned out. My understanding of the word “massacre” undoubtedly changed.

Reading this book felt like watching an engaging and inspiring film about World War II. The Romanovs were akin to Jews in a concentration camp where only death was inevitable. In this ominous setting, Nastya (Anastasia) and her family took comfort in each other’s presence. And in spite of the Bolsheviks’ animosity, the former royals consistently practiced compassion. I loved that forgiveness was their greatest virtue throughout the novel. The Romanovs’ tragic lives taught me that when someone hurts you, forgiveness shows more strength than vengeance. Isn’t it so easy to take revenge on your enemies but so difficult to forget their transgressions?

Nadine Brandes added a touch of magic to her book, and I was very grateful for it. Nastya wanted to be a spellmaster like Rasputin, their family healer. Anastasia more or less immortalized Rasputin as a villain, so it was fascinating to learn about his connection to the imperial family. Apparently, the tsarina looked up to Rasputin because he had saved the life of Alexei, her son who had a terminal illness called hemophilia. The novel also hinted at a possible affair but eventually disconfirmed it. The tsarina’s reason for keeping the magician close was anything but malicious. Without its magic system, this book would have been more heartbreaking (e.g., no miraculous recoveries). As it was, the author didn’t hesitate to endanger the lives of her protagonists! #Heartless

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My only problem was a case of character inconsistency. Dochkin was supposed to be the greatest wizard in Russia, but his actions told me otherwise. After so many references to his exceptional power, I was very disappointed when he finally appeared. He was practically useless in the final battle with Yurovsky, incapacitated at first sight! But to be positive about it, his weakness enabled Nastya to shine.

Overall, Romanov is now my favorite reimagination of Anastasia and the best historical novel I’ve read so far. It’s also special to me because of its openly Biblical themes. If you’re searching for a book that’s painful yet uplifting, you already know what to pick up.