Hey there, bookworms and dragons! So, I read Fawkes by Nadine Brandes a few months ago and I let myself sit on the review for a while because I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. Unfortunately, I sat on it for so long that I forgot the details of the book itself and didn’t end up writing a review. However, it did stick with me enough to inspire a Bookish Soundtrack and I loved the idea of taking a prominent event or character in history, adding magic and flair, and recreating it in a way that reaches a YA audience.
So, naturally, when I saw that Nadine Brandes applied that premise to one of my favourite historical tales, that of Anastasia and Alexei Romanov, I knew I absolutely had to read it. I was lucky enough to have been approved for a digital galley of the novel through NetGalley in exchange for this honest review. Let’s get the TW/CWs I noticed out of the way first.
- mention of a possible suicide attempt (speculative, but detailed)
- accurate portrayal of Stockholm Syndrome in a secondary character
- execution style murder
The Romanovs all obviously love each other very much. I love the amount of detail that went into most of them. Unfortunately, I do have to say “most” because while we do interact a bit with each of the family members, it’s hard to tell them apart personality-wise. Especially Olga and Tatiana.
The Bolsheviks were very much developed as a hive mind, with the exception of Zash, Ivan, Yurovsky, and Avdeev. These four alone were given a level of development, which in this case made it more believable. Since the story is told from Anastasia’s point of view, she might have only interacted with a few Bolsheviks enough to be able to develop them further than their status as a Bolshevik soldier.
This excuse cannot be used for her family members though so that bit was a little underwhelming. However, Anastasia and Alexei received a good deal of development and were quite three dimensional by about the middle of the novel. I am happy with the amount of development that went into Anastasia’s father, Nikolai, because while he didn’t have much time on the page, Anastasia’s impression of him makes him as three-dimensional as she is.
Romanov is set in the early 1900s in Russia, as the real-world tale of the Romanov’s does. Except with magic. I love the intricate way we get to understand the way magic works in this world and also how it doesn’t. There are very specific rules and limitations set into place from the beginning of the novel. I do wish that we could have had a little bit more development to the locations themselves? I feel like it would be easy for me to look through the internet and find a good description and/or images for the locations this story takes place in but I really shouldn’t have to. The world-building was sufficient for the story and great for the magic, but not very immersive location-wise.
The actual story in Romanov kept me reading long after I should have done things like sleep or work on my own NaNoWriMo project. I just couldn’t put it down! There were a few parts where I was confused with where the story was going and it slowed down a little, but for the most part it was full steam ahead. I feel like the ending leaves an opening for imagining what could have happened next, but all of the important threads were tied off by the final page and it’s not cliffhangery at all.
While there is definitely the possibility of more story, I don’t think Nadine Brandes intends to write a sequel. In fact, I kind of hope she doesn’t. The ending of Romanov leaves just enough open for hope and possibility to creep in and I think that’s how Anastasia would have wanted it. I definitely enjoyed this one and look forward to seeing what Nadine Brandes comes out with next!
Overall, I rate Romanov 4 out of 5 bookworms. Don’t just take my word for it. Add it on Goodreads and enjoy it for yourself when it’s released on 7 May 2019!
What’s one of your favourite historical tales or mysteries?