Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

3:19 PM

Romanov by Nadine Brandes |  Rating: ★★★★☆

As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

Am I really reviewing a book that won't be out for half a year? Yes. I couldn't help myself! Tell me the truth: can you, take a moment to look at that cover, really say no to its beauty? I couldn't. I was all, "Oh, I'll wait a couple of months to read and review, so I can post this closer to the release date." and literally five minutes later I was a few pages in and couldn't stop myself. Romanov is a high-stakes historical fiction fantasy novel that takes upon itself to weave magic into the all too real, all too tragic tale of the final imperial family of Russia.

Romanov, like most historical fiction novels, is not going to be a source of factual information on the historical events. I try not to ridicule it, although sometimes when reading about fictionalized accounts of the Romanov's I can't help but feel a little weird. While I grew up loving the animated film Anastasia (and as an adult have become reacquainted with its score in Broadway's Anastasia) and harbored that sense of hope that at least one of the children had miraculously escaped for most of my childhood, I can't help but to circle back down to two things.

One, the Romanov family had, in fact, been executed and their remains are, as of 2007, all accounted for. Two, this statement has always made my skin itch a little in guilt when I do indulge upon various tales involving Grand Duchess Anastasia: "Some of Anastasia's contemporary relatives also felt that the film was distasteful, but most Romanovs have come to accept the "repeated exploitation of Anastasia's romantic tale...with equanimity"

I think that the reason Anastasia, and the myths that have persisted about her and her family since their murders, continues to stay so relevant in historical fiction is that we always wish to rectify the darkest chapters of history. So, in fiction, we create this better world and this world, we hope to add just a little more light. Or hope.

That being said, though Brandes takes many creative liberties with Romanov within the first few pages one can already tell this: she is crafting an enthralling tale of love, loss and the magic within.

While she explores a more fantastical side of the Romanov family's final months, she does her best at keeping as many real events, phrases and facts front and center. Like all good historical fiction, real life weaves effortlessly with fiction. Brandes doesn't taint, or make light, of history. If anything, she still paints a grim--yet somehow hopeful--picture.

I truly enjoyed Romanov. I thought it was fast-paced, magical and heart-wrenching in all the ways I'd expected it to be. Brandes is a fantastic writer and I'm glad this was my first experience with her work because it often gave me goosebumps. I loved that she gave a list of resources and fact checking at the end of her work, to show the differences between her story and the real history--I feel like not enough historical fiction offers that for readers.

This may not be a must-read for historians, but it will certainly be popping up on "best of" lists upon its release next year.

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