“Romanov” by Nadine Brandes #BookReview

Georgia Kostopoulou


I’m fascinated by history, everyone can tell that from the many historical books I read throughout the years. I’m also fascinated by countries or places n this world that have their own tradition and centuries of folklore and myths. One such country is Russia. No person can deny that Russia has inspired so many authors starting from Naomi Novik and “Uprooted” to Leigh Bardugo and “Grishaverse“. Apart from Russia’s folklore, their tsars have always been something of the talk of the town. And of course I would be so interested as to read about the Romanov family, even if this was just a retelling of their ending and what might have happened to that missing Romanov daughter, Anastasia. Therefore, I picked “Romanov” by Nadine Brandes.

The Romanovs have abided the throne and are send away by the Bolsheviks. They are now located in Tobolsk, Siberia, but not for long. In Tobolsk they had gotten to know their guards and exile was bearable. Until one day the Bolsheviks come again, new ones this time. They are there to take tsar Nikolai and his family away. But not all of them can move. Alexei is too sick to travel. So the family gets separated, without knowing when and if they will see each other. As the former tsar is about to leave he puts upon his daughter Anastasia the family’s salvation. She is to find and protect the magical matryoshka doll, the one that holds an ancient spell that could be their only hope. But the leader of the Bolshevik army that requested their transfer is after all magical items and the matryoshka doll specifically.

If Nastya wants to save her family she needs to camaraderie to a Bolshevik soldier, one that seems to be a bit different than the rest. But, can she really trust him with something so important as the salvation of her family? He is a Bolshevik after all. And, as if that is not enough, Alexei gets worse by the day and she has so little knowledge of magic, not enough to give him his health back or to take her beloved family out of this nightmare.

Since this is a historical fiction with a magical twist it is pretty certain that it cannot be that much different from the actual story. So, if one knew the story of the Romanov family, they pretty much know what to expect. As soon as the whole family is transferred to Ekaterinburg the reader waits for the inevitable to happen. In the meantime we get to know more of the balance between the members of the family. We get to know some little details as to what their capture would mean to them or the differences that Brandes put in the story to make it more magical and justify the actions to come in the future.

I really liked how magic is incorporated in the story. Nastya (Anastasia), who’s story this actually is, wants to become a spell maker but she didn’t have enough time to advance on her studies. Rasputin is portrayed as a spell maker himself and her tutor, one that would only give her glimpses of spell making. Until he is arrested and everything is lost. For me though the magical part was not enough. I did enjoy the historical part, as well as the love and relationship between the siblings, that is Nastya and Alexei, the little tsar. And given that I like reading Russian tales the whole story was very good for me. I just wanted more of the magic that wafts in the air. That being said, I did like the hopeful ending, even though we all know how that turned out to be.

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