Friday, May 24, 2019

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

From Goodreads:
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 survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for 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 love this book. While Nadine wrote a compelling first few lines (lines I think she's quite proud of, and rightly so), it was the Dedication that made me stop and think and remember. I think all people have experience hurt, and some have dared to hope, many have forgiven, but I think few have lived or thrived after. Maybe this story will help those few, too.

Nastya deals with pain from the very start of the Bolshevik Revolution. Those opposed to her family were not kind necessarily or gentle. Even the slower social media of that time period was successful in promoting lies or rumors about the Romanov family.

I really enjoyed the history woven into Nastya's story. I had only heard glimpses of the lost Russian princess story and listen to a few songs from a soundtrack, but it was intriguing and I wanted to research it more. I recalled the disease of hemophilia in the royal family, and I liked how Nadine incorporated it into the story, along with the fantasy element of spell writing. The wiggling spells were unique and the relief that an activated spell brought to Alexei was relief to the reader too.  Being a rider, I loved any part that included horses and riding. :D

I think perhaps the Romanov kindness to everyone and anyone, including the harsh soldiers, was a sweet character trait among them all. The ex-tsar won many hearts to him by living a life of kindness and demonstrating that not all rumors or propaganda is true, and Nastya also lived her life with the same desire to be kind to all (though it didn't come as naturally to her).

Soon Nastya is entrusted with the final spells that are left in the country, hoping they will be a means for the family's salvation when necessary. The adrenaline and anxiety that accompanies that responsibility wears on Nastya, but her father's wisdom and her own learned patience teaches her to wait and trust even in the darkest moments. I loved how the family lived in exile yet hoped for changed hearts and smiles even when they knew deep down rescue was not certain at all. They made birthdays something even when there weren't any presents. They allowed themselves to love, even when they knew love could be taken from them. They remained a family when the Bolshevik army threatened to tear them apart.

My only wish for this story is that it was longer. I felt at the end that it was short, or maybe ended quickly, but maybe that was just my love for the characters and the story. I think the fantasy element of the spells was well done (not creepy at all, for those who are wondering), and it added in what was missing or unknown from the historical parts. For those who have experienced hurt in their lives, Nastya is given many choices that we all face: whether to forgive or remember, to heal or hurt, to erase or save memories. Read Romanov to see how Nastya and her family battle the hearts, minds, and danger of the Bolshevik Revolution, and see that though miles, memory, and time may divide, the bond of hearts endures.

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