Thursday, May 9, 2019

Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Romanov by Nadine Brandes
Thomas Nelson
Publication: May 7th, 2019
Hardcover. 352 pages.

About Romanov:

"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."

Romanov is a novel that I wasn't expecting to hit me as hard as it did. It's a bit of a doomed and slow-paced story, but it's also a novel that focuses on love and family and never giving up. Romanov is the perfect mix of historical fiction with a touch of fantasy that brings a truly unforgettable family to life.

Most of us have a general understanding of the tragic Romanov family story and that it has been proven that Anastasia did not actually survive the event, despite what some great movies might tell us. However, Brandes keeps the favored idea that Anastasia, or Nastya, did survive, and she also adds in some interesting magical elements to make things a bit more interesting and to raise the stakes even higher. I was hooked throughout the entire story, from the prison-like place that the family is kept to the more fast-paced and action-oriented moments that take up much of the latter portion of the book.

The synopsis of this book makes it sound like it has a heavy romantic component, and although it does have an obvious romantic element, I would hesitate to think of this too much as a romance. There is a romantic interest with a character named Zash, as mentioned in the synopsis, and although this does eventually play a large role in the plot, I felt it was always slightly overshadowed by Nastya's commitment to her family and the magic elements she is entrusted to taking care of. This is also much more of a character-driven book than it is a plot-driven book, which understandably placed an emphasis on the character development and relationships of each. There was also a heavy focus on the magic-related plot point that is entrusted to Nastya by her father and which sets in motion many of the more pivotal scenes in the book.

I found Nastya to be an interesting and admirable character, someone who truly places her family above others and will do whatever is necessary to take care of them. I really appreciated her loyalty and cautiousness at all points in this book and I enjoyed following along as she started having to face more and more challenging obstacles. The only thing I didn't care for was that I didn't feel like we got to see as much about her as the author described, such as her personality before being essentially 'imprisoned' with her family. The same thing goes for her father and mother; I understood her relationship with them, but I didn't always see it, especially in regards to her relationship with her mother. I did, however, love Nastya's relationship with her brother, Alexei, and sister, Maria. What I didn't care for was that the rest of Nastya's siblings seemed nonexistent, and I'm not entirely sure why Brandes didn't seem to include them much at all. I understand having the entire Romanov family makes things a bit overwhelming, but I often forgot they even existed.

Brandes has a lovely prose style that is both simple and exquisite at the same time. She doesn't overdo with flowery words, but she still maintains a hint of elegance that makes everything flow smoothly. This helped to make the novel flow well at any point in the plot, whether it was during a slow- or fast-paced part, and whether it was a meaningful moment or one of more humor and lightheartedness, the latter, of course, being on the rarer side. Since the story is often on the slower side in terms of pacing, it's crucial to have a well-written and interesting narrative, which I think Brandes captured well. I also loved how well she captured the strong loyalty of a loving family. It was beautiful and heartbreaking to see the way that everyone cared for one another at every point in the novel, no matter how stressful their situation became. Developing characters and relationships that authentic is an impressive feat and I highly commend Brandes on that component.

My only real complaint about this book is in regards to the magical elements, as I wish that they had been developed a lot more than they were. There was an explanation of the magic system, but it never felt fully-fleshed and I had far too many questions about it than I was given answers for. Magic begins to play a larger role in the latter half of the novel, but I just would have liked to see a little bit more about it throughout. Similarly, I didn't feel that the Russian setting and world-building was given as much detail as it could have had and therefore I didn't often notice the Russian settings as strongly as I would otherwise.

Overall, I've given Romanov four stars! If you enjoy historical fantasy and strong focus on family, then be sure to check out Romanov.

*I received a copy of Romanov in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


  1. I have a NetGalley copy of this but I'm not sure I'll have time to squeeze it in this month. But I love the idea of a Anastasia retelling, so hopefully I can get to it at some point😁

  2. I'm definitely looking forward to this one - historical fiction with a bit of magic thrown in sounds wonderful!