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337 pages, Hardcover
First published May 7, 2019
¹ I have never seen the
Disneycartoon (apparently, actually Fox Animation) based on the Romanov family execution. All my knowledge going into this book therefore is based on the actual historic events, and I have zero sentimental connection to the cartoon story. Which is probably responsible for some of my baffled reactions.
Stories based on significant historic events and concerning significant historical figures, especially those in the relatively recent past (and a century is an eyeblink as far as history is concerned) are always interesting. How you deal with actual people in turmoil of history can show skill and respect and levels of sensitivity that are in my opinion strongly necessary.
Now, before I get scolded for putting YA stories down, I must say I love a lot of what is viewed as YA genre. Many of my favorite books are YA. Because in my opinion a good book is a good book, regardless of the age of characters or intended audience.It is overly simplistic in the historical background and motivations for characters and events. I get it that story retellings are popular, but when your premise is: “Let’s do Russian Revolution and brutal slaughter of a royal family — but with magic!” you should really think your worldbuilding through. Or you can just throw a few random “spells” in and call the job done.
But this one is just that good.
“After Rasputin, the people grew too suspicious of spell masters, convinced they could control minds. So the revolution began—forcing Papa off the throne and hunting down spell masters one by one.”
“What’s happening to the spell masters now? Are they . . . stopping their work?”
“The Bolsheviks are hunting them. Forcing them to either serve Lenin or die.”
“What is Lenin going to do with them?”
“He’s promised to make spells accessible to everyone. Someday.”
I tilted my head. “That doesn’t sound so terrible.”
“It sounds like a good solution, da? Simple. Equal. But if the spells become free and distributed equally, who pays the spell masters? How do they live? How do they eat?”
The magic and the rest of the story do not organically come together. Instead the spell-casting feels clumsily tacked on, clashing with the horror of the actual reality-based events. It’s painfully incongruous.
And our lovely heroine! Don’t even get me started. A spoiled rotten, shallow and vapid brat who acts like a preteen ( “My favorite grin slipped out—the one that preceded a particularly fantastic prank.”) and whose attitude frequently reminds me of that (likely made up) anecdote about Marie Antoinette’s “Why don’t they eat cake?” bafflement.
“What if my rash actions resulted in the danger I so desperately sought to avoid?”With a generous sprinkle of insta-love, of course.
“Alexei waggled his eyebrows. “Does Soldier Zash liiiiiike you?”—————
I snorted. “Certainly not!”
“But he didn’t understand my life, needs, or upbringing.
And I didn’t understand his.
But I intended to.”
No one can out shout a revolution
Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to 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.
“You find joy in so many little things. For once... I want to see joy find you. Surprise you. You deserve it.”