My teeth hurt, my heart hurts and my soul has been ripped out of my chest. This is an Anastasia retelling like no other. It warms you up from the inside, gently stoking fires of love in your heart before pouring oil onto the burning flames. Then it takes it all away from you and stomps on your chest repeatedly.
Books don’t often make me cry. There are a few things that have to be present in order for me to connect emotionally to them, and it’s unusual for a book to tick every box.
This one ticked every box.
An ARC of Romanov was sent to me by Harper360YA in exchange for my honest review. I also received an eGalley through NetGalley, which was approved by the American publisher, Thomas Nelson Fiction.
My review has not been influenced or approved by either publisher.
The history books say I died.
They don’t know the half of it.
Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them… and he’s hunted Romanov before.
Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for 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.
I wasn’t expecting to like Romanov. I have a love-hate relationship with historical-fiction books, despite mostly enjoying fairytale retellings. I requested the book out of my love for Fawkes, the last Nadine Brands book I read. But even that one was a ‘meh’ could-have-been-better 3.5 star read.
Romanov was nothing like I expected.
Not only did I end up loving it, but it had me captured from the first page. The author’s writing was so different from when I had read Fawkes, I had to double/triple check that I was thinking of the right author. I genuinely didn’t believe she could have written both books.
The writing was mature, smooth and low- embracing me with warmth. It flew like soft silk in a gentle breeze, and before I knew it I was halfway through the book and sitting shell-shocked, hungry and heart-broken.
When going into a retelling, you have a certain level of expectation, especially when it comes to favourite fairy tales or the hopes for a nostalgic trip to past loves. For me, I hadn’t discovered Anastasia until a few years ago- but that means it’s still fresh and crisp in my mind. I put that move on a pedestal, and wasn’t expecting to find a retelling that would ever be able to climb the steps before it.
I was lucky last month, stumbling across Last Of Her Name (another Anastasia retelling) and falling in love with the story all over again. Whilst it had some of the same themes and storyline, the world in which it was set was completely different. Last Of Her Name is a science-fiction, with the events taking place in the stars.
Nadine Brandes chose to do the brave thing. She chose to set her Anastasia retelling in the same world as our own. The one the movie is set in, and, as a result, my expectations sky rocketed. The foundations for a perfect storyline were already there, and all she had to do was type out an existing script, make a few changes so it didn’t breach copyright and then hand over the book to the publishers.
I was completely, utterly wrong. Nadine Brandes played with the storyline enough for it to be clear that it was an Anastasia retelling whilst also incorporating such beautiful happenings from her own mind. She created a shining tower from the bricks she was given, one that will stand tall and cast a shadow over all other retellings.
It was truly a wonderful experience, reading this book.
Honestly, the redemption arc was beautiful- the family bond was heart-swelling and the characterisation was beyond amazing. I felt like I made new friends, cried with them as they lost and celebrated when they found hope.
Upon finishing the book, I was filled with the overwhelming desire to be back in the world again. I’ve never been more tempted to do an automatic re-read; to try and notice the little details I missed the first time through. It feels like there is a hole in my heart that has been filled in.
So thank you, Romanov.
Thank you Nadine Brandes.
Now to just count down the days until the sequel.