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August Review: Something a little different


Author: Nadine Brandes

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2


The name carries with it mystery and fascination. The daughter of the last Tsar of Russia has had her story shrouded in an enigma for a century. No one really knows what happened to the girl after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Speculation and bits of evidence are all we are left with.

Enter Brandes’ version. Imagine a historical account of the Romonov family and add a dash of magic to it. Could the Bolshevik’s hated more than the politics of Anastasia’s family? What if magic was at the center of the conflict?

The story of Anastasia is a personal one to Brandes’ as she makes clear at the end of the book, and I appreciated her attempt to insert fantasy while maintaining the known history around the account. Characters in the book are based on real people or seemingly appropriately imagined stand-ins for people. Locations are kept true to history.

If I am to be honest, I did struggle at times with this read. After all, it’s a princess story, which is not my cup-of-tea. I read this book because my daughter is obsessed with it, and I love supporting speculative authors. I was a huge fan of Brandes’ A Time to Die. But princesses? Not my thing.

Still, the Romonov family is written in a way that makes them highly relatable. Brandes helps the reader to see them as people, not royalty. There is no sense of otherness to them. They are a family trying to survive a world that has suddenly grown to hate them. For this reason, I believe the book is a fantastic read. Everyone will have a character to whom they are drawn. Some will love Anastasia. Others will be fond of Maria. For me, Zash was my favorite. Though, ultimately fictional, I appreciated the conflict he endures between duty and compassion.

If I were to make any criticism, it would be the pacing of the story. A character-based narrative, time was necessary to get to know the primary cast. Empathy needs space to grow, so I understand Brandes’ choices. However, I spent much of the first half of the book asking my daughter when something was going to happen. She promised me it was coming, but I spent those first pages frustrated. I wanted a little action.

Then, it came.

And I finished the last portion of the book in just two sittings.

If you love history, Russia, stories with magic, or are even a fan of the Disney adaptation of Anastasia’s story, I suggest you pick up this book. As a genre, it was a departure for me but a welcome one. While I’m not likely to run to pick up another book about a princess, I’m glad I got over my initial perception and gave this a read.

The book is clean. No sex, language, or gore. There is some violence, but it is handled tastefully. Romance is present but clean. Faith is present, but not overbearing or preachy.

I would recommend this book to any young reader, especially young women. My daughter is two for two in her recommendations to me.

Available on Amazon or your local bookstore (support local businesses!).

No disclaimer. I did not receive anything from the author, nor was I requested to write this review.


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