Romanov Review

I have always loved the story of Anastasia. The lost princess who finds her way home. I even went to see the Broadway production at the Fox in St. Louis over Christmas break. Which was amazing, by the way! But, similar to Fawkes, I have never looked into the true story behind the fairy tale. And then Nadine Brandes wrote Romanov, and I knew I couldn’t go without it!

Synopsis: The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it. 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.

Things to Love:

  1. No one is truly vilified. I really appreciated the fact that no group in this conflict was portrayed as fully evil. Even Rasputin, though he doesn’t make an appearance, is not portrayed as the creepy villain of the children’s movie. Instead, both the Romanov family and the Bolsheviks are shown as clearly flawed human beings with both good and bad inside them. My favorite example, of course, is Zash 😉
  2. The family loyalty. I love a book with good family or found-family themes, and this one did not disappoint! It’s so heartwarming to watch the Romanov sisters pull together during such a hard time.
  3. The magic system. Spell ink and magic hidden in dolls waiting to be spoken to life. It’s not very complicated and just makes my writer heart happy 🙂
  4. Betrayal, Forgiveness, Redemption, Hope. These heavy themes are so well portrayed! Even in it’s darkest moments, the light shines through.

A Word of Caution:

As mentioned above, this is a HEAVY book. Unlike other versions of Anastasia, it’s not one to be picked up for light reading or to fall asleep to. This book will wreck you, in the best way, and you need to be emotionally prepared for that.

My Rating: 5/5

Nadine has woven so much truth into this one book. It’s heartrending and at the same time so uplifting and beautiful. I would say her best yet, but it’s hard to judge against the Out of Time series as they are such different books. So, ties for best yet 😛

*Side note: Go read Out of Time if you haven’t already! One of the best Dystopians I’ve ever read!*

Fawkes Review

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,” This poem is all I really knew about the Gunpowder Plot. So when I first heard of Nadine Brandes’ historical fantasy novel, I figured there wasn’t a better way to learn a bit more than in a book filled with magic! The beautiful cover caught my eye and the synopsis solidified the deal.

Synopsis: “Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.”

The Good:

  1. This book really opened my eyes to the political and social unrest of the day. I learned about Luther and the Reformation in school and I knew at one point there was a terrible plague that swept Europe, but I never realized how much of this was happening at once. Through Thomas’ journey I came to a much better understanding of why the Gunpowder Plot happened to begin with.
  2. The world is a vibrant mix of historical England and a unique world built fundamentally on magic. Both of which have always interested me. I love the idea of color magic and the use of masks.
  3. There are some beautifully flawed characters. Thomas’ is torn between his desire for a cure along with his father’s love and his need to know the truth before committing himself to high treason. Similarly, Emma is trapped between her desire to be known for her talents or who she truly is and her fear to leave the safety of what she has always known. They are both be a bit annoying at times, but I enjoyed watching them grow and come to terms with who they are and the decisions they make.
  4. The end is very moving, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out why!

The Bad:

  1. Although the magic system is an interesting concept and very prevalent throughout the book, it is never clearly explained. Especially the role of White Light. The topic is touched upon and vague facts are given when Thomas and Emma argue, but you never quite see the whole picture. The Christian allegory is clear enough that I understood, but I would have preferred for the in-world scenario to be more fleshed out. And honestly, constantly calling it White Light instead of just White (or even Light) like the rest of the color words got a bit irritating, but that’s neither here nor there. However, I must say the slightly snarky personality of White Light was a refreshing twist.
  2. I felt like many of the integral characters and relationships fall a bit flat. The basics are there and you have just enough information to draw your own conclusions, but none of them delve very deep. I especially wanted to see more of Thomas’ relationship with Guy (his estranged father) and Norwood (his father figure). Both of these relationships had so much potential, and exploring them just a bit more would have really upped the stakes.

My Rating: 4/5

Overall, this is a very good book that will appeal to both history buffs and fantasy fans. The writing is well done and the story engaging, with plenty of intrigue and close calls befitting an assassin story.