★★★☆☆ // ★★★★☆
Me, 25% into this book: “Okay, sure, it would have been good if it picked up before now but who’s counting?”
Me, 65% into this book: “I PHYSICALLY CANNOT STOP READING THIS BOOK. I WOULD ABSOLUTELY DIE FOR THESE CHARACTERS. JOY IS THE WORLD’S BEST DOG. AM I SOBBING?”
In summary, if the whole story was as intriguing as the last ~40%, this would be a 4.5- or 5-star read.
The issue here isn’t the author’s ability, it’s actually that she did a wonderful job researching and sticking to the original story of the Romanovs. Which is lovely in theory, but when you’ve spent 30-odd percent of a book reading about how they’re still banished, still together, still making it work, still staying positive… it gets a little less inspiring as the chapters go on. The thing is, I also have to give Brandes props for sticking so close to the original story. Not much changes from the real-life story of the Romanovs — and she actually tells you which parts she did change after the book’s conclusion.
Okay, obviously anything having to do with magic is entirely made-up by Brandes, but otherwise the story is impressively researched and sticks to real-life events. And is incredibly dissimilar from the movie Anastasia, which I’m sure awakened and nourished many fascinations with the Romanovs.
Everyone knows the real story of the royal Russian family, more or less. The revolution happened and, no matter how much you know about what happens in between, the story ends with the entire Romanov family being massacred. However, there was a time when Anastasia’s and Alexei’s bodies were missing from the family’s mass grave site (they were eventually found nearby, by the way). This absence fueled many rumors about the two children having survived the massacre, which in turn inspired stories like that found in the movie Anastasia, where the Russian princess survived but sustained memory loss and grew up in an orphanage.
These rumors and stories are the basis for this book, as well, but Brandes takes a different road. She thought of what made the most sense from what she had researched about Anastasia’s character and the Romanov family’s beliefs. She combined that knowledge with a world where magic could be harnessed. And she wrote a story that made my heart stop and restart several times.
If you’re a fan of magical realism — magical stories that are rooted in the ‘real’ world — or a fan of the story of the Romanovs, I would definitely recommend Romanov. It starts off slow, yes, but even the slow parts are fairly interesting if you didn’t already know the whole saga of the family being sent to exile, moved, and stuffed away in a guarded house — or if you do already know the whole story but are interested in reading it from Anastasia’s perspective. And once you get to the point where the story picks up, it becomes a must-read. When I got to that point, I finished the book within a few hours. I couldn’t put it down.
Overall, if you asked me right now whether you should read this book I would say yes. If you had asked me a few days ago, before it got crazy good, I would probably have said no. But, as always, my opinion isn’t everyone’s opinion and you should absolutely check out the book and let us know what you think.