Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: YA Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars
Overview: Wow. What an incredible book! I’m so sad that life matters resulted in me taking over a month to finish it.
It’s a fantasy take on the tragic story of the Romanov family, taking a what-if approach to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the bodies of Anastasia and Alexei. It was a unique spin on the story that kept me captivated even when I couldn’t pick it up and read.
Characters: Nastya is a fantastic heroine. She loves her pranks, but it makes her endearing instead of annoying. She has real struggles, but she learns to handle them with grace. She was quite relatable!
Alexei was an unexpected favorite. I appreciated the snarkiness Brandes applied to his character; it made him come alive in a new way as an excellent foil to Nastya. We do love the devoted sibling trope!
And Zash… Poor, conflicted dear! Brandes does a great job portraying his struggles, showing how even the worst of decisions don’t define a person. I loved getting to know him!
Content: There is a romance lurking in the shadows of subplot, but it never goes beyond kisses. It’s a sweet addition to the story.
The actual story of the Romanovs is a heavy tragedy, and while the book doesn’t go into many details, it’s impossible to cover the goriness of what happened to their family. There are numerous mentions of blood, people getting shot, and a variety of other injuries. It’s definitely not something I would hand a sensitive reader.
Magic is present in this story. Nastya wants to become a spell master so she can heal her brother, and she uses several spells throughout the course of the story.
Writing: Brandes’ writing is flawless, sucking us into the story from the first page and pulling us along on a unique, breathtaking adventure. The creativity behind this spin on history is fascinating. It was fun to see how she incorporated some Russian vocabulary into the dialogue. And her descriptions of the scenery made me feel as if I were there. (Shashlik on the beach, anyone?)
Summary: This was a beautiful story featuring a bittersweet theme of forgiveness. Filled with unexpected, exciting twists, it will leave you perhaps a bit teary-eyed. Because of the graphic nature of the story, I would be careful with who I handed it to, but I would highly recommend it to mature readers aged 14+.