Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
The first chapter of this book is amazing! The descriptions all through the book are gorgeously beautiful and well-written to keep your attention and create a concrete image in your mind.
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Rating: 4.5 stars
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 not in the right hands.
The first chapter of this book is amazing! The descriptions all through the book are gorgeously beautiful and well-written to keep your attention and create a concrete image in your mind. The romance between Natalya and Alexei is so sweet and written to portray it as exactly that — their first kiss is perfect. From the first chapter, I wanted this book to be my new favorite book, a wonderful mix of fantasy and historical fiction with a new focus I had never read about before — Russia and the Romanovs. In fact, I loved the first chapter so much I read the entire thing again as soon as I finished it. However, after the first chapter the focus of the book changes quite drastically, and the Romanovs, while still talked about in length, are not in the book at all.
This book demands to be read with care. I mused over every single word and simple description I would often skip for dialogue in other books, but not in Tsarina. The plot plows forward, and although there are beautiful descriptions woven in, thing are constantly occurring.
Natalya is a great character, very feminine yet brave, strong, and confident. She is comfortable as a noble but doesn’t abuse it of feel drunk on the great amounts of power she has, both through her position and the magic of the Feberge egg.
I think the one reason I bumped Tsarina down from 5 stars to 4.5 is because of the strange, rushed romance (spoilers!) between Natalya and Leo. First of all, although I didn’t dislike Leo, I certainly never came to love him as I did Alexei even though he is only in the first chapter. Leo’s character seemed a little flat, like just a generic “boy” without any real distinguishing characteristics. And although you can see it coming from a mile off, Natalya’s growing love for Leo despite her promises to Alexei, and the fact that Leo is their kidnapper, made it seem awkward and strange. If only it was possible for this book to be a real love triangle, I’d be on team Alexei all the way.
Genre Review: Historical Fiction
Although I wasn’t expecting it, this book is very fantastical and revolves around a sort of quest of Natalya, her friend Emilia, and their kidnapper Leo, to save Russia, although they all have their own priorities. In this way, it turned out to be more of a romantic fantasy book, but the history was certainly still there.
Tsarina did teach me a lot about Russia in 1917, and about the struggle between the “Reds” (rebels) and the “Whites” (nobles). One thing to note however, which J. Nelle Patrick does point out in the handy historical note at the end, is that for the sake of a good novel, the October and February Revolutions were combined into one major revolution. In addition, Alexei’s age seems to be bumped up a few years, considering that in actual history (so this is not a spoiler) he died at the age of 13, while he is about 16 or 17 in Tsarina, something not mentioned in the historical note.
What I love about historical fiction books is that you get to learn about a certain historical figure or event while being immersed in the culture of the people and experiencing it through the eyes of those that lived it. To me, although YA novels are certainly not always accurate in their history (which is what historical notes are for — to warn you of this fact), it is a wonderful way to learn history that you don’t get in a school setting or even from a non fiction book, which list out facts for you to write down without you actually living the experience — a much more realistic portrayal of history. History is, after all, “his story” (ignoring the “his” part for right now because I could go on about that forever), and should therefore be told as a story, which Tsarina most certainly did.