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Natalya knows a secret.

A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.

But it's in the wrong hands.

328 pages, Hardcover

First published February 27, 2014

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About the author

J. Nelle Patrick

1 book28 followers
J. Nelle Patrick is a pen name of author Jackson Pearce.

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5 stars
338 (18%)
4 stars
661 (36%)
3 stars
528 (29%)
2 stars
206 (11%)
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81 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 348 reviews
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 81 books168k followers
November 29, 2017
Possibly I am biased, because the author (Jackson Pearce writing as J. Nelle Patrick) was sitting across from me in my squashy office chair while she wrote this. I'm fond of both Jackson and that chair.

Possibly I am biased because we brainstormed about this book and The Dream Thieves as we loitered in my kitchen with the 4,000 cups of coffee who died to make both of these books possible.

Possibly I am biased because you always like books you saw being born on your living room floor*.

It's possible.

But it's more possible that I really wanted something historical with a hint of magic; something that didn't feel like an assignment; something with a moose in it.

This is that book.**

*This is unpalatable
**Also, if you don't believe me, believe Kirkus, anyway, because they gave it a starred review.

And I just think you'll like it.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
March 12, 2014
Saint Petersburg was a city of illusions.

Holy hell, I want to go to Russia now. I mean, I did before. But now I really want to go. This novel so beautifully captures the cities of St Petersburg and Moscow at the height of the 1917 communist revolution. It expertly blends the historical facts with elements of Russian mythology and sensitively portrays both sides of the revolution by allowing you to come to your own conclusions about which side is to blame - if, in fact, either is. We see angry poor men being driven into the ground by the hard labour they perform, while their employers sit in cosy, gold-plated luxury. We see people being dragged from their homes and murdered by the aforementioned angry poor men for crimes they had no say in.

This novel asks that you think about one thing: It is not our fault where and into what circumstances we are born. We have no control over that. But are we to blame if we simply accept things the way they are without trying to change them?

The author says in her note at the end: The Russian Revolution, truth be told, needs little to no fictionalization to be a fascinating time period, full of beauty and horror and wonder. And I like how close to real events she has kept the framework of her story, how she weaves in the Romanov family, Grigori Rasputin and the imperial Faberge eggs (I found this addition quite fascinating). I couldn't put this wild tale of fact and fiction down.

I only realised recently just how important atmosphere is to a novel. It's not really something you consider outright when thinking about a book but I honestly believe it can make or break it. Consider your favourite books. Maybe they have an atmosphere of fast-paced, heart-pounding, will-they-live-or-die tension that drags you right into the centre of the story. Maybe there's a bittersweet sadness that makes you feel like you might burst into tears any second - even at the happy parts of the book. Maybe it's a spine-chilling creepiness. But, whatever, atmosphere is what takes you out of the real world and plants you in another. World-building is nothing without atmosphere. My point? I am rarely so wholly absorbed into another place and time as I was with Tsarina.

Look at these quotes and tell me you can't feel the Russian air on your face and the excitement and terror of the revolution:

There were bridges from one to the next, and the canals were deep, maintained with stone walls that held the Neva River at bay. But we divided ourselves with harsher lines than the land did: the rich and the poor, the merchants and the nobles, the Whites and the Reds. When the river would occasionally flood the canals and blur the lines between islands and districts, we would hastily fix it, tighten things, firm up the boundaries and make sure the illusion, the lie, the fantasy held.


There was no mistaking a Russian winter. It was a unique thing, a creature born and bred for Russian soil, one that sometimes brutalized the natives but often served as our secret weapon. Napoleon’s army was defeated not only by the Russian people, but by Russia herself.


It was lonely now, our houses islands amid broken seas of our old lives.

It is so beautifully written. Part survival story in some ways, part historical fantasy in others. Despite the way it starts with Natalya and Alexei declaring their love for one another, this is far from a mere romance. It is brutal, even more so because it is based in fact. You find yourself sympathising with both sides and hating both sides simultaneously. I love novels that can make you feel so many complex emotions.

I'm also not one for patriotism or nationalism; I find myself nodding along with Virginia Woolf's "My country is the whole world" quote... but I found it very easy to get caught up in the passion Nataliya feels for her country. And I'm not even Russian! She has to make a decision whether to flee to France to escape the revolution or stay behind and risk everything to try and save her country, and I completely understood her desire not to abandon ship. There's a certain ferocious passion that infuses this novel and I think that's why everything I may not usually agree with makes so much sense.

How could a city so full of people feel so void of souls?

I was leaning towards five stars from very early with this book but I was just a little disappointed that the ending felt so rushed. We'd been set up in a beautifully atmospheric novel with characters I really liked, only for it to feel tied up too quickly. It didn't ruin the book but I thought it could have been better, which is why my rating is four stars instead of five. But don't be put off. This is an excellent book that I would recommend to all fans of historical fiction. I enjoyed it a lot. One final quote:

“You said it wasn’t your fault for being born rich any more than it was my fault for being born poor. And you’re right. But if we don’t do anything to fix the world, if we just shrug and let children starve and soldiers die and people be treated like cattle . . . if we don’t fix the world, Miss Kutepova, I believe it becomes our fault.”
Profile Image for Meg.
209 reviews349 followers
March 19, 2014
Tsarina, Tsarina, why wouldn’t you let me love you? I wanted to love this book you guys. It’s imperial Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution. THERE ARE ROMANOVS (according to the blurb which is a complete LIE because there is only a physical Romanov presence in the first chapter). I can’t be the only one who looked at this book and thought
Anastasia waltzing

And while there was some of this:
desAnya and Dimitri bickering

And the teensiest bit of this:
Anastasia being all fancy

There was mostly this:
Magic egg
Magic. Egg.

Read the full review on Cuddlebuggery.
March 19, 2014
Ugh...what a tedious book. I could go on for a while, but let's leave it with unlikable main character and the poorly executed story of the Russian Revolution mixed with strange, intentional historical inaccuracies (I'm looking at you, Alexei Romanov) and the same, tired "Russia is a magical land of ballet and glittering palaces and fluffy snow" cliche that people are fond of using in novels and cinema. This book also deals with a very touchy subject and many people don't quite understand all the complexities of the time period. As for this book, it really shouldn't even be classified as historical fiction.

Sorry, but this book didn't sit well with me.
Profile Image for Lyd's Archive (7/'15 to 6/'18).
174 reviews37 followers
November 28, 2017
For a more concise summary, see Sarah Smith's review
2.5 stars.
NOT, in my opinion, perfect for Gemma Doyle fans. The Gemma Doyle series is much more complex and mature with a more intense and less logic-deprived fantasy element. Also, Libba Bray doesn't screw with real people or much of real events.
Overall, Tsarina is a fairly average YA book with a good deal of historical inaccuracy, a lot of philosophical rambling, and a weak fantasy element that had logic issues. It would be three stars, but the ending was awful. I don't care about the romance, I need logic!
If you want a semi-historical fantasy romance, I would read The Wrath and the Dawn instead. I only gave it three stars, but at least it doesn't screw with history.
If you came here for the fantasy romance, the fantasy element is pretty weak, except in the end, and there's a lot of holes in the logic. As for romance, there's about ten pages of it, mostly in the beginning. Mostly, the underdeveloped characters are romping about revolutionary Russia in search of a magical Mcmuffin cliche Fabergé egg, breaking things in occasionally good purple prose, and misusing historical terms here and there.
(see Juliet Camille's review, Beatrix's review Katherine's review, and Sara's review)

Here's what annoyed me:
1. The characters. Natalya rocked back and forth between saying stupid things like how the Reds were ruining the party she wasn't actually participating in, and thus dishonoring their country, and going on philosophical ramblings with lots of metaphors.
"'Fair?' I asked, shaking my head....'the world is the world and we're cast into whatever roles we fall into. It's not my fault that I was born rich and you were born poor....You want to destroy a world of mountains and valleys and make a plain flat field."
There's also this one part where she just randomly dangles her legs over the edge of the train car door "something I never would have done the day before yesterday, but now seemed no more life-threatening than our current situation." That paragraph is for the sole purpose of her discovering icicles with which she can open these cans of caviar they found. And don't get me started on how stupid she is in the first chapter.
"If only they understood that Alexei would be the greatest thing ever to happen to Russia."
Why? Because he loves you? In the second chapter, she magically became better, but then she started talking about how Russian winters got rid of Napoleon and the Poles. However Once she actually steps outside into the Russian winter in the present, she just starts talking about how pretty snow is as if it could never possibly be a problem.
"It was a particularly enjoyable pastime, spotting the visitors - the people who didn't know just how to bow into the wind." She loves her country, supposedly for more than its parties, but for what else does she love it? Does she think that by her half-baked plan to get the magic egg and get her historically inaccurate bad-boy boyfriend on the throne mean love for her country?
Logic? Logic? LOGIC??

As for Leo, he just seemed underdeveloped. It would be interesting if this was written in third-person so we could see what he was feeling too, otherwise he just seems a bit blank. And also, he's special. All the other "reds" are big, bad, ugly drunks, except for Leo.
Don't get me started with Misha.

2.There is about ten pages of romance, mostly in the horrible first chapter that made me want to throw this book like a frisbee. Natalya is led into the room where the magical egg thingy is kept by Alexei, who instead of being a twelve-year-old hemophiliac, is a charmingly mischievous somewhat bad boy, and then they kiss, Natalya saying stuff like "it felt like stars were swimming through me." And then when she starts falling for Leo, they do all that cliche "tracing the jawbone" stuff and she says stuff like "it felt as if he wanted to commit this moment to memory."

3.The fantasy element is weak and has a lot of logic issues. If the Romanovs have the egg, it will keep them in power while healing them and allowing them to resurrect flowers and make snow. The basic plot of this story is that Natalya and her stereotypically whiny and shallow best friend have to team up with Leo the big bad revolutionary to get the magic egg and, while he's not looking, return it to the Romanovs (how they find them is never considered) and then all will be well and there will be a perfect land or unicorns where everybody is happy. How can a magic egg do that? Also, why do the Romanovs suddenly fall out of power when the egg is taken, yet it still heals them and allows Natalya, being the beloved of our historically inaccuracte bad boy tsarevich, to resurrect flowers for no apparent reason?
wait....Magic Egg?

4. The big complicated abdication thingy. In the book, it portrays everything as being happy until the Reds, which is a blanket term for everyone who doesn't like the Tsar and must be poor, take control, capture the Romanovs (because that's more dramatic) and force Nicholas to abdicate, making Alexei unofficially tsar. In reality, Nicholas abdicated from power under some pressure on a train returning from the military headquarters. Then a group called the provisional government took power while people decided what the heck they wanted after the Tsar left. Nicholas did abdicate in favor of Alexei, but then abdicated for Alexei, giving the throne to Nicholas's younger brother Mikhail, who purposely married a woman he wasn't allowed to marry to prevent this very thing from happening. He refused the throne, of course. The Romanovs were placed under a fairly comfortable house arrest in their palace outside of St. Petersburg, which should be called Petrograd, but isn't, until the situation became more dangerous and they were moved to Siberia for their safety. It was only during that time that the Reds, a particular faction of rebels only recently created, took over and after a while moved them to Ekaterinburg, a revolutionary headquarters in the Ural Mountains, where they were all shot one day in July 1918.

Now whose idea was it to write a YA fantasy about the Russian revolution?
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,731 reviews260 followers
June 1, 2018
Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick has a lot of potential. Historical-fantasy is one of my favorite genres and I was hoping I could count this story as one of my new favorite reads. I will say though that my favorite elements of the story are seeing the Romanov family (I could have done with a lot more of them actually as well as Rasputin himself) and the 1917 Russian setting as the Revolution is really beginning to hit home. The author takes some liberties with the timeline of events and changes up some of the cast in order to suit the story that she's telling. I also have to admit that I didn't find our Natalya, our leading lady, all that inspiring as a potential heroine. Although Tsarina never quite hit the mark for me, it's still an enjoyable read. If you like the 1997 animated movie Anastasia, you may also enjoy this stand alone historical fantasy novel.

Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,281 reviews1,655 followers
October 19, 2016
Initial reaction: THAT ENDING, WHYYYYYYY?

Note: I could totally see it coming, but I still hoped that the plotberg would be avoided. Spoiler: it was hit at full speed ahead.

Review: Russian history ranks highly among my favorite kinds of history. Let’s be honest: some crazy shit happened in Russia. There are so many amazing stories to be told. As such, I was thrilled to hear about J. Nelle Patrick’s Tsarina. The fact that Patrick is actually a pseudonym for Jackson Pearce upped my excitement, since I really enjoyed Sisters Red. The Russia stuff is delightful and the writing solid, but Tsarina took more of a fantasy angle than I was really expecting.

Read the full review at A Reader of Fictions.
Profile Image for Regan.
457 reviews110k followers
June 9, 2023
I ended up actually really enjoying this! The fantasy element was pretty weak, but I loved the setting and the integration of Russian history.
Profile Image for Brandi.
329 reviews800 followers
June 6, 2014

This was a solid four stars for me up until I figured out my hopes for the direction of the romance were wrong, and then that ending. The story is still good enough to merit a happy three though; allow me to elucidate on my experience.

At its base, Tsarina is a historical fantasy crafted around the Romanov family during the revolution, but it feels more like a YA romance in some ways. Natalya is the young noble that has the heart of Alexei Romanov, and he hers. They have known each other their whole lives and have the love that comes from complete security in one's choice, despite their young age. Alexei takes Natalya into a deeper level of their relationship with the revelation of the Constellation Egg, a gift from Rasputin that has magical powers imbued by the mystic himself. He no longer has to fear his hemophilia as the egg heals him as surely as nothing happened at all, and as he reveals this to Natalya, he divulges that the egg doesn't only work as a healer, but does much more- like protecting those that the Romanov's love. They share a very sweet and tender moment as this conversation goes on, even though they can hear the chanting of rioters just outside the gates. Neither the young Romanov nor his love actually believe anything come of the people protesting, and many times Natalya views them as children throwing fits, as she believes completely in her Tsar, and his capabilities of quelling the growing problem. The love between her and Alexi was well crafted and nicely subtle- very sweet and believable.
”Alexei must have seen the hurt on my face—hiding my thoughts from him was nearly impossible. He saw every blink, every fidget, every half-sigh. I suspect it was because, given his condition, he spent much of his life being watched and worried about; he learned to be equally aware of others’ pain, be it of the body or the heart.”

Along with the fact that I really found myself caring about both Natalya and Alexei, I cared about Emilia as well. She and Natalya were truly great and as their friendship grew so too did my enjoyment of the story.
”Those of us who remained were orphaned, wandering about, waiting for the world we’d always known to spin back around and claim us. It was lonely now, our houses islands amid broken seas of our old lives.”
I loved the way these relationships developed, and have to point out how well written this book is. It was very easy to feel what Natalya and Emilia were going through and it was easy to picture the Russian that we were shown.

Now, my issue with the story, centers on the other love interest- Leo. It’s not even that I dislike Leo, it’s that I don’t like the way the story worked around him. Everything was too rushed, and it felt like it made what I’d read before less authentic. Let me explain as best as I can but it’s spoilery, very much so, so do NOT read if you don’t want to be spoiled. I’m sure that the relationship that the story centers around will not be a problem for many readers, so certainly don’t put it off just because it turned me off. I do expect that many will be annoyed at the ending though, it was really rushed and too tidy, if fantastically magical.

Now a word:
Profile Image for Cesar.
365 reviews237 followers
March 17, 2022
1.5 stars

Reading Tsarina brought me back to when I read the Blood Rose Rebellion trilogy. It reminded me that mixing historical fiction with supernatural/fantasy elements can make or break a story. For Tsarina, it broke the story. Not because the fantasy element was bad. It was because it's hardly ever brought up, let alone explained. Combine that with a lackluster story with no rising action or climax, Tsarina is just a book with no style or substance. This makes the reading experience all the more disappointing considering this took place during the Russian Revolution, a pivotal moment in world history.

Tsarina tells the story of Natalya, a Russian noble who dreams of being with Alexei Romonav (he's alive in this one, more on that later) and maybe becoming tsarina. One day, he shows her the Constellation Egg (a real Faberge egg but with no powers; again, more on that later) which contains magic that not only helps Alexei with his hemophilia but in some ways, protects the royal family. When the revolution begins, the egg is stolen and Natalya, along with her friend Emilia and Red soldier Leo, set out to find the egg before its magic is used for chaos.

If you have any basic knowledge of the Russian Revolution, then you would know that there are a lot of historical inaccuracies. J. Nelle Patrick acknowledges this by saying she tinkered with this part of history by changing a few things. For example, Alexei is alive and a few years older than when he and his family died. The same can be said with the Constellation egg, which is real but has no magic. It's not a bad thing to change some things around for a historical fantasy story. Here's the thing, Patrick didn't do much with either the historical setting or the fantasy element for Tsarina. The story sounds good on paper, but the execution was bad.

The Faberge egg has magic in it. It can do many things such as healing and reviving dead plants. Sounds great and magical, right? Except that it's only ever brought up when the plot needs it. Otherwise, it's never brought up. I don't get why if Patrick wanted to include magic in her story, she didn't make it the forefront of the story or have it mixed well with the revolution. Take away the fantasy element of the story and you've got a heist story. A very boring heist story at that. But no seriously, nothing would change other than getting the damned egg back.

This brings up my main issue with Natalya and the historical setting. Natalya and the storytelling make it seem like what happened during the revolution can be seen through a black or white lens. You have Natalya and her constant whining about how the nobles will prevail and how they're best for Russia while Leo, who is a Red, wants to dismantle the monarchy so the people of Russia could live better lives. It's more complicated than just that, especially if you have knowledge of how the revolution happened and how it ended. There's more nuance to it but the story really piles it on with how different the Whites and Reds want Russia to be, not including other factors such as World War I. And I get it, it's a historical-fantasy story, you have to suspend your disbelief at times. The problem, however, is that the setting is a monumental moment in not just Russia's history, but world history. Had the story taken place during a moment in time when there wasn't a revolution, it might've been good or at the very least passable. But Patrick really makes the Russian Revolution so simple.

Then we have Natalya and her goal of getting the Constellation Egg back. The story makes her sound patriotic because of her loyalty to Alexei, his family, and to Russia. This is also her downfall as she is very much naive and downright ignorant to the world outside of her bubble. Many times, she is called out for her ignorance and selfish wants but to her, everything and everyone is second to Alexei and Russia. As if she could somehow save everything and everyone. She wasn't a compelling character. She's just boring.

Tsarina frustrates me with how little it takes advantage of the historical setting and the magic. Everything about this book is just shallow. You're not missing out if you skip it.
Profile Image for The Library Lady.
3,651 reviews538 followers
July 9, 2016
Dear Kirkus Editors:
Who are you having write these reviews and are you aware that whoever wrote this one was obviously heavily into the Stolichnaya when they read this book?

This book is awful. It has a laughable plot whether it's the fantasy element or the history. It has all the worst devices of YA fictions--the loyal but weak best friend, the dead mother, the clueless (and pretty much absent) father, the "perfect" boyfriend and the other guy, the one with a secret. J. Nelle Patrick/ Jackson Pearce/ Whatever Your Real Name Is, I spotted the guy right away. Can you say OBVIOUS? Because your writing screams of it.

Patrick/Pearce/Whoever She Is carefully explains how she mangles history as badly as anyone who has ever fictionalized the Romanovs. And BTW, when Natalya refers to the Grand Duchess Olga, she'd have referred to her as such or as Olga Nicolaevna or at least Olga RomanovA--P/P/W didn't even get that right!

She talks of how she "cried" every time she wrote about the Romanovs' deaths, but how many times does she write about it? It's described once, and that's about it. And her proud declarations about turning the Tsarevich and Rasputin into dimensional characters is simply laughable. Saying that Rasputin loved the Tsarina doesn't do anything but move your silly plot along, and as for Alexei, what shows how wonderful he was--that he doesn't want to have the servants bow to him? That he is kissy-kissy with Natalya? He only appears in a few scenes, and he's got all the depth of a mud puddle.

This is obviously not the end of this series. But I won't be purchasing any subsequent volumes.

If you were once into the awful cartoon "Anastasia", I suggest you go and watch that instead--at least the music was great. If you want more about the Romanovs--the REAL Romanovs--you can find it elsewhere.
And if you want a fictionalized version go for Angel on the Square, written by Gloria Whelan, a terrific writer.

Spare yourself. As for me, I'd like my time--and my brain cells--back.
Profile Image for Desirae.
2,106 reviews140 followers
April 30, 2017
"The rioters at the gates were loud, but no match for the music of the Winter Palace."


I wanted to love this, god damn it! I wanted to love it so friggin much!!!

Instead, it was



I can't remember the last time I reacted so negatively towards a novel, and I'm not even one of this people who went into it thinking "Alexei was only thirteen when he was killed" (but he was) and "those are not the accurate sequence of events." I was ready to let everything go and be swept up in the grandeurs of imperial Russia, in the danger and intrigue of the Bolshoi, and in the sweeping first love of a Tsarevich who never got to rule. But I got none of that. Instead I got snippy, bitchy characters whose plights I was completely unsympathetic towards, and quite honestly a very limp plot, sprinkled lightly with one or two pretty sentences each chapter.



Is madly, hopelessly in love with Alexei, right from the beginning. Honestly, I would have preferred to see more back story involved with this, since the rest of the novel focuses on Natalya desperately trying to save Russia, his empire. Why not start a bit earlier in their relationship, or show us flashbacks?

Oh, and despite her great love for Alexei, not only does she betray the secret of the egg to the weird Babushka, but she also harbours feelings for Red Army leader Leo, who is a part of the organization that's trying to destroy the Romanov's.



There were other annoying characters and several stupid plot twists. The writing had rare breif moments of pretty, but yeah, this whole thing was a waste.

I wanted to love it. It had so much potential. Maybe I'm so pissed because I wanted to love it so much...
Profile Image for Nasty Lady MJ.
1,060 reviews16 followers
November 28, 2014
Really 1.5 stars. To see full review click here.

I imagine a conversation went like this when pitching this book:

Publisher: Well, Ms. Patrick the Russian Revolution idea is interesting. But we have to have something to compare it with.

Patrick: Why?

Publisher: New trend in YA. Everything has to be compared to something else.

Patrick: Like Hunger Games?

Publisher: Waaay over done.

Patrick: Okay, what about Dr. Who?

Publisher: Are you serious? Dr. Who meets the Russian Revolution. That is even ridiculous for our company. Here, watch some TV I’ll talk to you in a few hours.

Ten days later which equals ten minutes in publishing land.

Publisher: So, have you came up with a mesh up for us.

Patrick: Yes, uh, Material Girls?

Publisher: Material Girls? Is that that bad Hillary Duff knock off of Sense and Sensibility that takes place in LA and has her sister cast in it (God, I love nepotism).

Patrick: Yep, that one.

Publisher: I love it.

Enter MJ

MJ: I don’t love it.

To be fair, there’s nothing involving Material Girls in the plot synopsis. The comparison is only mine to make. But if you’ve seen that movie, you’re getting a good idea what Tsarina is about. Throw in a little Stockholm Syndrome, a McGuffin, and you got this book.

The only thing it really had in its favor is the concept and the setting.

However, the synopsis mentions the Romanovs. Other than a cameo at the beginning, you don’t get any Romanovs. Instead, you get the Duff sisters wearing pretty dresses and in this book essentially causing the Romanovs deaths by being stupid.

But don’t worry, there’s a new boy in town.

Handsome Leo who’s a brute for about 280 pages of the book.

Yeah, I really have problems with Stockholm romances. Especially when the so called love of your life died about thirty pages ago. Really? You know having a Stockholm romance already puts the book on shaky ground. That scene had me raging.

Though, given the fact that Natalya was already a frustrating character, a frustrating character who had little to no redeeming characteristics.

I really think that Patrick was trying for a riches to rags vibe with character development. But at the end, I didn’t feel like I sensed any character development from this character. She’s still the same selfish twat like she was at the beginning of the novel. And I don’t think her relationship with Leo (The Stockholm Induced Love Interest) helped.

However, sour characters and a romance that makes the early Disney princess’s romances look develop has nothing on how the Russian Revolution is distorted in this book.

I’ll be honest. Even though I had to do multiple projects and papers over the Russian Revolution, was coerced to reading Animal Farm, and watched the historically inaccurate animated film a dozen times in my youth, the subject matter can easily get confusing. Patrick’s novel doesn’ t make it that much better.

I think part of it is that I couldn’t sympathize for either side. I couldn’t see their sides of things. The Whites were portrayed as being like the Duff sisters and the Reds were just portrayed as murderous fiends.

And then there are the mystics…


Like with the animated movie, this book decides to go with semi-evil mystics. Though I’ll give it kudos for not having a zombie-ish Rasputin walking around. Just his…never mind for spoilers.

To be honest, I think Rasputin and the mystics always sort of get a bad wrap when it comes to fiction about the Russian Revolution. Never mind, that he played really no role to the tsar’s downfall he’s just an easy target-I don’ t think the beard helps. But I really don’t see why such a big deal is made out of them when there’s so many other historical figures to discuss.

I don’t know…it’s just I feel like the history itself is interesting enough where parties don’t need to be added or changed to the story.

And that might’ve been the worst thing about this story.

The whole faberge egg plot really didn’t work for me either. It really felt more or less like a McGuffin quest. The so called powerful object really wasn’t even that powerful.

I don’t even really know what it really did by the end of the book. Oh, I was told but I kept waiting for the stupid egg to show me the money…

The book never did.

I think for people who are wanting to know more about the Revolution or even expecting a fun Anastasia-ish themed novel, they’re probably going to wan to avoid this book. I think the best way to describe Tsarina is that Nelle was playing with Russian Revolution era Barbies.
Profile Image for Michaela.
53 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2014
Without Further Adieu...

Before I mention anything about this book, I must say that I love Goodreads. I love it because of the recommendations it's given me. I love it because of the new friends it's given me. I love it because of the challenge it's given me to complete my reading goal for the year. I love it because it keeps track of all the hundreds of books I want to read. I love for the reviews I can read and determine if I want to read a certain book. I love it for endless reasons. But most of all, I love it for the many unbelievable books it has so graciously shared with me - books that on my own I never would have discovered. Such as this book.

Before the Book

Before I talk about the actual book itself, I will just mention that I've realized that I love historical-fiction. However, I've also realized that it is a lot more difficult to get myself to love historical-fiction books set in America or England because I've already read way too many of books set there. I love historical-fiction books set in China, India, Russia, etc. I love seeing the different cultures and how things were at that time and place. To me, it's like time-travel. In other words, wonderful. I was thrilled to read this book, because it is set in Russia during the time of Nicholas and the revolution.


This book was wonderful from the start. I loved the character of Natalya. Her character was well-formed, actually she was the perfect lead role for this story, she was sweet and yet had the perfect amount of imperfection that let you still love her. She was dynamic, and just an amazing character.

Watch Out From Here On - There Are Spoilers!

I loved Alexei! He was just perfect! And when he well um, , wow, I cried. It was TERRIBLE!!


And then, Leo. At first I hated him. And then I fell in love with him. He was wonderful, too.


Wow, and then when a certain Colonel Ivanovich was, um, BEATING UP LEO!!! I was kind of mad.


So, yeah, I loved this book. It was amazing, but I kind of got to a point where I just really got frustrated at Emelia. Like when she completely ruined Natalya's plans for freeing Leo by telling her uncle!


A Closing Thought

To close this review, I must say that I recommend this book to those ages 13 and up. It was really good, but there was some (not much at all but enough to make me say this) mature content. There was some romance, but it wasn't much at all. There was nothing else that I'd warn about. There was some magic, but it was different than other books I've read though, and I didn't have any problems with it.

Profile Image for Beatrix.
544 reviews96 followers
March 16, 2014
Tsarina did not turn out to be what I expected. It’s young adult, and I knew that, but I still hoped for a more serious approach to the theme of Russian Revolution.
The whole time while reading it, I felt like the important things were happening and we were not getting to see them; instead the focus was on the search for a magical egg, which is supposed to save the country.

This book is an almost childlike, fairytale-like portrayal of Russian Revolution.

If you want an epic story, set in the same time period, I highly recommend Sashenka!
Profile Image for Savannah Foley.
164 reviews14 followers
September 30, 2013
**I got this as an ARC from the giveaway table from The Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA

Readers will love the atmospheric feel of the book. The writer really did her research, and it shows on every single page. I particularly enjoyed how real the Russian winter felt; not just as a winter but as a RUSSIAN winter. It was a delight to find that very specific Russian feel maintained throughout the story.

I also admired how the writer presented multiple viewpoints on the revolution, making each seem like a logical choice.

One note about historical accuracy: The author has a lovely note in the back of the book detailing some of the departures she'd had to make from history in order for the story to work. Having read the note before I began reading, the departures didn't bother me in the slightest.

Fans of Russian stories will find a gem in Tsarina.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
627 reviews177 followers
March 5, 2014
Originally reviewed on Books Take You Places.

I was very intrigued by the idea of this story, Romanov Russia has always been interesting to me and the stories that surround the family have always been fascinating. While intrigued, I was also very worried. I honestly had no idea how Ms. Patrick was going to finagle a love story with Alexei, who was only thirteen when he was killed, it seemed like it would be at the very least, a very short and sad novel. The truth it, Ms. Patrick did manage a love story starring Alexei, but this story was much more than that. It was not so much a story of Alexei, though he is very important to the novel, but it was a story of his love, Natalya, and her quest to save Russia.

The relationships in Tsarina were something special as each character complimented one another. Each character believed in something whole heartedly, and each felt conflicted with their companion’s beliefs. Natalya and Leo were especially interesting to view together as they both believed in a better Russia, and though they started as not being able to understand one another’s beliefs, they eventually came to realize that they both wanted the same thing. I can’t completely say the same about Emilia, thought I do think that she believed what she did was right, she was still rather close minded in comparison to those around her.

I found that I really enjoyed Natalya, she had a strength within her that shone through as she moved forward in her task. Throughout the novel, she remained faithful in her unwavering support of her true love, Russia. As stated, Leo had the same strength as Natalya, he believed in his ideal Russia and did what he thought necessary to succeed. The mysticism that played a part in the central storyline was fantastic, and Maria’s character was especially interesting, and through her, the portrayal of Rasputin was incredibly intriguing. In fact, if Ms. Patrick chose to write a novella from Maria’s point of view, I would be very interested, seeing things from her mind would be fascinating.

I can’t say that I didn’t see the romance of the novel coming, but it unfolded slowly and surely in a way that made it very believable and sweet. I had my doubts, but this was very well done. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, and I do believe it is a book that has a little something for everyone. To those of you worried about the historical inaccuracies, I remind you that this is a work of fiction. The author really did a wonderful job of keeping things historically accurate while also adding a very interesting fictional storyline. Overall, I am happy to say that Tsarina was a beautiful portrayal of a rather sad piece of history. It is a story of a girl who believes in love. It is a story of hope.
Profile Image for Bec.
151 reviews109 followers
November 15, 2016
'There was no mistaking a Russian winter. It was a unique thing, a creature born and bred for Russian soil, one that sometimes brutalised the natives but often served as our secret weapon. Napoleon's army was defeated not only by the Russian people, but by Russia herself.'

Natalya and Tsarevich Alexei Romanov are in love, and everything is perfect in Natalya's mind. What could happen to ruin her plan of marrying Alexei, and him becoming the most perfect Tsar that Russia has ever seen?
The communist revolution, is what.

When the Winter Palace is sieged and Alexei and his family are taken hostage, Natalya must try to gain access to the palace to rescue the constellation egg - a fabergé egg created for the Romanov's by Rasputin, which will ensure that their family is protected and keeps the Russian throne. When she discovers that the egg is missing, Natalya must team up with Leo, a communist who has taken her and her friend Emilia hostage, to find the egg.

Tsarina isn't completely historically accurate - for example, it merges the revolutions of Feburary 1917 and October 1917 into one event, Alexei Romanov never had a long-standing romance with Natalya (considering he died when he was 13, this is understandable), and although a constellation egg was created for Tsar Nicholas II (despite it not being finished before the revolution began) I somehow highly doubt that it was embedded with powers of protection from Rasputin - however, the author changing these for plot points completely made sense, and she did state her changes in the afterword. I did find this to be a really enjoyable book; it merged the magic of everyday Russia with the mysticism of their folklore, all set during the revolution. I enjoyed watching Natalya grow, and seeing her relationship with Leo develop as she grew to trust him. The book wasn't politically biased, either - Natalya was obviously one of the bourgeoisie and pro-Imperialist, however, the struggles of the proletariat were made obvious throughout the book (especially once Leo became a more prominent character) and as I said, Natalya definitely grew a lot throughout the book and began to see the other side of her story, outside of her pampered life.

“You said it wasn’t your fault for being born rich any more than it was my fault for being born poor. And you’re right. But if we don’t do anything to fix the world, if we just shrug and let children starve and soldiers die and people be treated like cattle . . . if we don’t fix the world, Miss Kutepova, I believe it becomes our fault.”

I'd thoroughly recommend Tsarina to all fellow history/Russian fiction lovers!
Profile Image for Kate.
1,010 reviews156 followers
July 17, 2014
This book didn't work for me because Natalya didn't work for me. Her feelings didn't work for me. Her motivations didn't work for me. And everything about this book felt rushed. Rarely do I complain that stand alone novels should be series, but this would have benefited from being fleshed out into two books, I think. For example:

I personally think this book would have been better told from a third person point of view, as some distance from Natalya's faults might have made her less insipid for me. I also think the inclusion of Alexei as a romantic love interest was a mistake that up-ended everything about how I saw the book from then on. (Why couldn't Natalya have been best friends with Anastasia to accomplish the same purpose?) Basically, though I'm bummed about this, Tsarina just wasn't my cup of tea despite loving Russia and the Romanovs and also books with political turmoil.

I just wish this review were more coherent. I'll go back and clean it up later.
Profile Image for Rebekah.
222 reviews23 followers
April 19, 2014
More than anything, I wanted to like this book. I love Imperial Russia, the Revolution, the ideas of wealth and poverty and social class. I should have known when I caught my first error that I would be dissatisfied.

For a noble woman at this time, Natalya is entirely too knowledgeable about war but seems to know nothing about the royal family. She claims to have worked with Tatiana and Olga, but most of the narrative focuses simply on Alexei. I'm tired of books that focus only on Alexei and Anastasia. Furthermore, the romance between Natalya and Leo seemed incredibly forced. So did the romance between Natalya and Alexei.

Almost more disappointing than the forced romance was how unbelievable the magic was. (Spoilers!) Rasputin magics a Faberge egg to protect the Royal Family. That fails. However, the egg magically manages to bring a dead man back to life merely because it is convenient for the author and the plot. (End spoilers)

Between crazed Reds after the main characters' virtue, random elks professing love, and incorporating magic but not having a good grasp on the logistics of how it works, I can only say this book disappointed me.
Profile Image for vicky..
386 reviews158 followers
July 9, 2015

I've been trying to write this review for weeks, but it's extremely difficult because I love Russia and this story is almost non-fiction.
So I'll keep this one short.

The bad thing about the book is Natalya, the main character. She is a Lady, she is a White and she is just dumb. She makes horrible decitions and she also falls in love with a Red while she was supposedly engaged with Alexei Romanov.

The strength of the book is in the conflict between the Whites and the Reds -the tsarists and the communists. The author does a great job writing both sides and at the end of the book you realize there is no wrong and right side, you understand their ideas and that none of the them is the correct answer to Russia's problems.

I know there's a magical egg and all, but honestly this was a fun and engaging story about the Revolution of 1917 and the fall of the Romanovs.
Even though it's historically inaccurate at points, it was a great read.
Profile Image for Lo.
363 reviews57 followers
July 31, 2015
god only knows where i found the strength to finish it
i don't think it was a bad book (even if i DIDNT LIKE IT AT ALL) but SOMEHOW there was only one character that didn't annoy me
mostly though as soon as the girl was like ~zomg these revolutionaries, don't they know it's not my fault!!!! even if im super rich!!!! and the future tsar is in love with me!!! but no!!! they need to stop this revolution!!! russia will care for them!!! even if they're poor!!!~ OR WHATEVER i could tell it wasn't going to go well
and it didn't!!!!

Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 35 books2,082 followers
August 6, 2016
Loved this one SO much. Beautiful writing and she did a fantastic job with the setting. Highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,221 reviews147 followers
April 15, 2023
If you're fascinated by the Romanov legacy and want to read Tsarina because you'd like to find out more about Nicholas II's family and the cultural turbulence surrounding his reign as the final Romanov tsar, you should be aware that this book takes its fair share of historical liberties. Of chief note is the implication that Alexei Romanov is the same age as Lady Natalya Kutepova, nearly seventeen at the start of the story. Considering that the historical Alexei died at thirteen, I suspect the evening up of their ages (though his age in the book isn't stated outright) is in the interest of the budding romance between the two. Readers who insist on strict adherence to the historical record will be disappointed by Tsarina's divergences, but if you're willing to make allowances for the sake of story, this book may be just what you seek. Political drama in early 1900s Russian is bound to create an electrically charged atmosphere, and the addition of young, idealistic romance and powerful sorcery only ups the ante. The end of the Romanov dynasty hasn't felt so relevant to adolescent readers in years.

Natalya and Alexei feel strongly about each other and intend one day to wed, though decorum demands they remain publicly vague about their feelings until they're older. At a grand ball one evening, Alexei sneaks off with Natalya to a hidden room in the Winter Palace and shows her a priceless family talisman: a Fabergé egg called the Constellation Egg, imbued with magic by the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin, who is now deceased. The mad monk created the egg as a gift for Empress Alexandra, and it shields the Romanovs and the ones they love from harm. Alexei, plagued by hemophilia all his life, is healed in the egg's presence. Despite ominous rumblings of communist revolution in Russia, Alexei is confident the Constellation Egg will keep the Bolsheviks at bay and his father on the throne. Alexei trusts Natalya with the secret, but no one else outside the family can know about the egg, for that would put the Romanovs in jeopardy of their lives.

"(A) jewel with a little dirt on it is still a jewel".

—Natalya, Tsarina, P. 115

Alexei departs St. Petersburg with his family when the heat of revolt grows too intense, but Natalya isn't seriously worried until communist Reds storm the Winter Palace and seize the government. Every noble in St. Petersburg is in danger, including Natalya and her best friend Countess Emilia Boldyreva, and they hurry to escape the city before brutish Red soldiers capture them. But what of the Constellation Egg, still presumably hidden inside the Winter Palace? The egg is the key to Natalya and Alexei's future, the only remedy for his deadly hemophilia. A plot to sneak into the heavily guarded palace and swipe the egg backfires when Natalya and Emilia cross paths with Leo, a Red their age who isn't about to let two young nobles skip town. Now it's a race to vacate St. Petersburg and locate the Constellation Egg before the Reds formally detain them, but no Russian city is safe during the chaos of revolution for a pair of nobles easily picked out from any crowd of girls their age by their elegant personal style. Though the Constellation Egg's magic is potent, Alexei will soon be in mortal danger, and what does Natalya have left to fight for if the tsarevich perishes? Across the massive Russian countryside the pursuit continues, and Natalya learns she must stand against an enemy who is neither Red nor White, a wielder of black magic as Rasputin was and perhaps the last person capable of unlocking the Constellation Egg's secrets that are unknown even to the Romanovs. Can Russia be restored to its pre-revolution glory, or is the Imperial era fated to end?

"(W)hen you forget that those you disagree with are people, not just your faceless opposition, you don't end up proving who is right and who is wrong. You end up with a body count."

Tsarina, P. 331

Debate over autocracy versus communism is at a minimum in Tsarina, but Natalya argues about it with Leo on a few occasions. He's a doctrinaire Red, she believes absolutely in Imperial supremacy, and no clever banter is going to change their minds. Natalya makes an insightful point, however, when she accuses the Reds of trying to manufacture artificial equality by making everyone poor, pulling the wealthy down to the level of peasants instead of offering upward social and economic mobility to the poor: "You want to destroy a world of mountains and valleys to create a plain flat field." That's an evocative and intelligent statement, for who wants a physical or social landscape with no variety? There are peaks and valleys in any landscape for good reason, and equality shouldn't come at the cost of diversity. Natalya and Leo have a lot to learn about getting along with individuals who don't share their worldviews, and we see that people on both sides of the political battle are doing what they sincerely believe is best for their country. Right or wrong, their intentions, at least, shouldn't be maligned. Alexei, child of royalty, is no unsympathetic heir to the throne. His mischievous streak, deep sensitivity to when others are hurting, and tenderness with Natalya prove he's not an aloof royal. As Natalya notes, "hiding my thoughts from him was nearly impossible. He saw every blink, every fidget, every half-sigh. I suspect it was because, given his condition, he spent much of his life being watched and worried about; he learned to be equally aware of others' pain, be it of the body or the heart." Being born and raised in a palace didn't mean Alexei was indifferent to the suffering of his subjects. If the people knew how much the tsarevich cared, perhaps the bloodiness of the revolution could have been averted. We'll never know for sure.

For those who don't know, J. Nelle Patrick is actually popular YA author Jackson Pearce. Tsarina was written under a pseudonym because it was a "write for hire" book, and a pseudonym allows the publisher more flexibility with such projects. Tsarina is the first Jackson Pearce novel I've read, and it's good; I love reading about Alexei and the final generation of Romanov rule, and this book caters to that. The way the Constellation Egg is used to explain certain historical quirks of the Romanovs' last days is intriguing, notably the bullets ricocheting off the jewels sewn into their clothing on the day they were to be executed. I believe I would rate Tsarina two and a half stars, and I recommend it for teens who like historical fiction. If the story of Nicholas II's family interests you, this is a good place to turn for literary adventure.
Profile Image for RumBelle.
1,823 reviews15 followers
December 30, 2020
I usually love books about Imperial Russia, and the Romanov's. This book though, took me a long time to get through, and it really didn't strike a chord with me. Magical Faberge eggs sound like a fabulous plot idea, but, to me, the whole book just fell flat.

It was very slow, and the characters really didn't grab my interest. Alexei especially just seemed really off for how history portrays him. Nothing rung true for me. I just could not reconcile how the historical characters were portrayed in this book, versus how I have read about the same people portrayed in history books, as well as other fiction books.

The author, in my view, was just trying to fit a magical story into the confines of Romanov history, but the history was changed and adjusted so much that it just didn't work.
Profile Image for Mel (Daily Prophecy).
1,093 reviews461 followers
March 24, 2014

This story has a beautiful setting and interesting concept. I know from her previous work like Sister Red and Sweetly that the author knows how to write an engaging story. But despite the well crafted world-building, I wasn’t fully invested in the story and the problem lies with the main character Natalya.

”That wasn’t foolish Natalya. That was love. Love hopes for happy endings.”

Natalya is in love with Alexei Romanov, next in line to be ruler of Russia. It seems that they have a long history together and that is why he trusts her with a dangerous secret. Before he died, Rasputin poured his magic into a Faberge egg. This egg ensures their hold on Russia and their health. Until the egg is stolen in the middle of a riot from the Reds. They are tired of their bad treatment and poverty, so the royal family is captured and Natalya is in desperate need to find the egg. But she isn’t the only one. Leo believes that he is capable of changing the ‘owner’ of the egg in the hope to help his people. He kidnaps Natalya and her best friend Emilia and they travel to Moscow.

The world-building was great. It felt like I was walking besides Natalya and I felt the tension when she sees her beloved city fall into the hands of the Reds. The setting was interesting too. The story behind the Romanov family and the questions about the survival of Anastasia are well incorporated. It’s obvious that the author did her research on the matter, which made it all feel more realistic.

Natalya started out as a promising character. It wasn’t hard to imagine her sadness when she discovers that Alexei is hold captive and her desperation to find the one thing that might save him and his family. The only thing is, I couldn’t connect with her. I wished I liked her more, but her sudden romance with Leo messed everything up. I just can’t understand how she fell in love so fast, especially not in that situation. It almost felt like a betrayal of her love with Alexei.

Despite that, I quite liked Leo. He represented the other side of the story. He shows Natalya the reason behind their rebellion and he always came across as a good person. His character gave balance to the story and I like how it changed Natalya and her look on things. He has his reasons to find the egg – an aspect that surprised me. I never thought there would be such a focus on magic.

Overall, a good book, but it wasn’t mind-blowing.


Profile Image for Jennifer Ellision.
Author 35 books378 followers
April 16, 2014
Posted to The Bevy Bibliotheque:

I think that I’m one of many, many people who find Russian culture all kinds of fascinating. And like those many, many people, the Russian revolution and Romanov family is of a particular interest to me. Even if Tsarina was written by someone else and J. Nelle Patrick wasn’t the penname of a favorite author of mine, Jackson Pearce, I would have found my way to this book.

There’s something vaguely Gemma Doyle-ish about the beginning feel of Tsarina. I think it comes from the friendship between two girls from a wealthier class, and the magical tumult. It may have been added to by the character of Leo, who both opposes and supervises Natalya and her friend Emilia, but is kind to them. I was reminded in very slight ways of Kartik’s character.

The sense of danger and mysticism is palpable in Tsarina, and Patrick lays out the landscape of Russia in a lovely prose that readers of her work as Pearce have come to expect. I was very pleased with it in that regard.

But, although I did really enjoy, Tsarina, there were a couple of aspects that fell flat for me. I was a bit disappointed by the romance in this book. It’s not that it couldn’t be seen coming, but I didn’t feel the chemistry, so it didn’t work for me. And well… the ending was another thing. It’s another thing that you can see coming, but it just doesn’t quite work. Some of it is too convenient, and the pacing feels a little abrupt.

Still, those complaints are minor ones for me. Patrick gave me Russia and magic. She gave me hints of the Romanovs and a strong female friendship. She gave me lovely words and interesting characters. Tsarina was a read that I really enjoyed.

Have you heard? There’s a rumor this book is pretty good.*

*You are awesome if you get this reference
Profile Image for Sarah.
357 reviews31 followers
June 27, 2014
When I was around six, I learned about Faberge eggs and the Romnanovs, and I was completely fascinated. I've been in love with Russia (well, not so much recently, because of their treatment of the Ukraine) since I was little, and I've read pretty much every book I can find about Anastasia and her family. I was really excited when I saw this book, because I was hoping it'd be a new take on an extremely tragic event. Nuh uh. It wasn't.
This actually was fairly well written, but it made me so angry that the author took a heart breaking and important event and turned it into almost a spoof. Basically, the Romanovs are protected by a magic Faberge egg that Rasputin made because he loved the tsarina, and the main character, Natalya, is a boringly flawless character who, when trusted with the family's secret by a weirdly out of historical character Alexei, she proceeds to discuss it with every commoner she can find. Good job, Edward Snowden. The whole historical event is taken and made into some sterile YA fantasy, instead of actually showing that it was brutal, political, and cruel. Imagine if she had written a book where Anne Frank was protected by a magic notebook, or Lincoln's assassination happened because of a voodoo curse; it's a bit like that.
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