The story of Anastasia Romanov has been re-written several times, including as a Disney musical. Romanov by Nadine Brandes puts a different twist to the possible survival of our favorite Russian princess. Given the task of carrying a magical relic through their captivity by the Bolshevik’s, we see a different side of Anastasia (Nastya) Romanov. Through her eyes, we see the fear, despair, and love that Nastya feels for her family and the hope that this matrushka doll she carries has a spell that can help her overcome all odds.
If Anastasia was anything like the Nastya on these pages, it was no wonder the world loved her. This Nastya was sassy, sweet, mischievous, and clever. A story that could’ve very easily been gray and dull was filled with an ebullience and light because of her character. Not to say that there wasn’t a lot of heartache in this tale because, of course, there was. However, her character embodied hope and determination and as the reader, I couldn’t help but buy into this alternate ending to the traumatic end to the Russian dynasty.
If I had anything critical to say about this novel it would be that I wished there’d been a little bit more magic and fantasy elements to the story. At the same time I was glad that the author kept the details historically accurate. Yeah, I know those two things kind of contradict one another, but I felt it was almost in the fantasy genre, but fell just short. I wasn’t too disappointed because I did get a happy-ish ending for Anastasia which she most likely didn’t get in real life.
I received a free ARC of this novel through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“I was disappointed by this book because it has so many things that I did enjoy, the writing style, the magic system, the characterisation, the pacing – all of these things were great. But I couldn’t get past the things that Brandes opted to bring to the forefront (the romance).” Chain Interaction
“I loved this tale of the Romanovs. The magical elements provided a source of hope in really dark times ant the story revolves around the importance of family. I was a little hesitant to picked this up because I knew how the Romanovs met their demise, but Nadine Brandes’ story telling made this sad story a hopeful one instead.” Devouring Books
The setting is Elizabethan England when it is treasonous to be a practicing Catholic. Lady Katherine’s father is killed right before her eyes when he is discovered harboring a Catholic priest, his secrets revealed. Escaping imprisonment, Lady Katherine travels to London dressed as a young man intent on revenge against those responsible for her father’s death. Intent on killing the Queen of England. Overhearing Shakespeare and his players in a tavern talking about a secret play they will be putting on for a private performance for the Queen, Kit decides to try out and lands one of the leads. Little does she know that she is playing opposite a young man named Toby who is a spy and the mastermind behind the plan to catch those plotting to kill Elizabeth.
In Elizabethan England women’s roles in plays were played by men or boys so when Kit gets cast as Olivia in Twelfth Night the humor of her success at playing a boy playing a girl is remarkable in that no one has figured out that the girl is actually a girl. Our spy Toby who is trying to catch a potential killer finds himself drawn to Kit the boy a fact that is punishable by death and when Kit seems to return his regard? That is when the plot truly becomes interesting. Even as Kit is one of his suspects, are their feelings for each other more important than saving the Queen’s life?
I really enjoyed Kit’s evolution. As Katherine she was restricted to a woman’s life but as Kit so many things were available to her. I think this combined with her feelings for Toby helped her to make the decision revealed at the end of the book. No spoilers here, but the line between life and death was trod very closely and the conclusion was just as dramatic as one of the plots in a Shakespeare play.
I am a fan of historical novels and The Assassin’s Guide was right up my alley. A devious plot and a romantic sub-plot set in a Shakespeare play? It had me asking questions about the era and I used Wikipedia a few times to fact check my own knowledge. I was surprised by many things but nothing as much as how enjoyable I found this novel. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“..although it is unique and not at all a chore to read, there was something missing, the same thing that, if I remember correctly, was missing in The Witch Hunter too. The reason for my inability to give it four stars or more. And that thing is… seriousness.” Hit or Miss Books
“Overall, it was an okay-ish read for me! It was a decent YA historical novel filled with drama, conspiracies, and forbidden romance. I liked the ending part which is why I gave it a three and a half star instead of three stars. ” Dreamy Addictions
Book Bloggers are an opinionated lot. When we find a trend in fiction that we love we talk about it to death until one day that love turns into dissatisfaction, the tide turns, and we start talking about how much we hate that trope. I guess that’s human nature but well, I hate it. Just because the newness has worn off doesn’t mean we should get rid of it. There are still many things to love!
THE LOVE TRIANGLE-
I’m not sure why this trope has become unpopular? There is nothing better than the exploration of a character seen through two people’s eyes. One of my favorite examples of this is….
This series is a favorite for so many people, yet it started out as a love triangle. Through Tamlin’s eyes we saw Feyre’s weaknesses and her fight to overcome them. Through Rhys’ eyes we saw her strength. Yes, Tamlin didn’t treat her very well, but without that plot point would we like Rhys as much as we do? Would we like them together? In fact, wouldn’t it be interesting if Tamlin overcame his ways and fought to recapture Feyre’s love? I’d almost like to see a return of the love triangle. It might bring a spark back into this now overwrought love story.
THE FAIRYTALE RE-TELLING
I’ll be the first to say that I am overwhelmed by the number of fairy-tale re-telling novels that were re-leased over the last couple of years. Some were not so good, but when one is written well, the fairy-tale re-telling is so much fun! I read quite a few last year but these two stood out because they were different.
The Wrath & The Dawn is a re-telling of Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights. The prince marries and kills his princess every night until he marries Scheherazade and she keeps him up all night telling a story with a cliff hanger that keeps him coming back. The Wrath and the Dawn’s Shazi marries the prince for revenge, but falls in love. It’s full of intrigue, romance, and Renee Ahdieh’s beautiful prose.
Hunted is a re-telling of probably the most re-told story, Beauty and the Beast. What makes Meagan Spooner’s rendition different is that she mixes Russian folklore into the main story of Beauty and the Beast. It is beautifully told and Yeva is a strong heroine. Interestingly enough, both Yeva and Shazi from the Wrath and the Dawn, survive by telling stories, so maybe there is a touch of Scheherazade in Yeva as well!
Not to speak ill of fairy-tale re-tellings, but I have read plenty that did NOT hit the mark. But as with all novels, they are subjective and I’ve read plenty of reviews for those books I didn’t really care for where those readers were overjoyed with the outcome. That’s the beauty of reading, isn’t it?
THE HISTORICAL RE-TELLING
My discovery of this trend is pretty new and so far I am loving it. Admittedly, I know enough about history to think, ‘hmmm, this sounds familiar’ and then look it up. Wikipedia has become my best friend! I have just read two YA novels back to back that followed this trope that were done really well. My reviews are scheduled to post soon, but here’s a brief note on both.
The Dead Queen’s Club is the story of King Henry the VIII and his six wives, in a high school contemporary setting. Henry is a charismatic young man, popular, and has a steady stream of girlfriends. Two of whom are dead. Cleves, our protagonist, is his best friend and also one of his exes, who is determined to figure out who was responsible for his girlfriends deaths. Her voice is snarky and there are plenty of past and present cultural and historical references. It was a roller coaster ride and I really enjoyed my emotion sickness.
Set in Elizabethan England our heroine is a Catholic whose father was killed for his faith. Wanting revenge, she joins a treasonous plot to kill the queen. Little does she know, that play (written by Shakespeare -‘Twelfth Night’) was a plot to capture the assasin’s. I loved the historical references, the treasonous plot, and of course, Shakespeare.
HEROINE WITH POWERS THAT SAVE THE WORLD
Admittedly, this trope is usually found in YA fantasy novels, although I’d love to see a contemporary heroine have super powers and save the world. That could be a great twist! Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fantasy novels, and LOVE to root for the underdog. So, while many of you hate to love our heroine’s that save the world, if done well I find myself believing and rooting for them almost EVERY time. I’m a softy, I know! Here are a couple that struck the right chord.
Our heroine Britta is a Channeler and has developing magical powers. Through this two book series (well, there is a third but it’s unrelated to these main characters) we see Britta go from fearful of being discovered a Channeler, to solving the mystery of what happened to her father, finding her best friend and crush and absolving him of the crime, to saving the king. She doesn’t save the world, but through her actions she brings Channelers out in to the open, ending their persecution in her country. Oh! I should mention that these two books also use the Love triangle trope. It’s kind of minor, but does add some tension into Britta and Cohen’s relationship that was probably needed. That sub-plot would’ve been as dull as dishwater otherwise!
There are any number of other YA novels that use this trope, and actually combines the Love Triangle and Heroine with Super Powers tropes to success. The other one that jumps out at me is the following…
Yes, the Red Queen. Every book blogger who has read this series has an opinion. BUT, this first novel was very well done. A political thriller that pits those with common “red” blood against the elite, those with “silver” blood. Our heroine, red blooded Mare (God, I hate that name!), has the powers of a silver blood. She becomes the face of an uprising, the fixation of an evil King, and the lover of a fallen hero. This series has it’s ups and downs, but as a whole, Victoria Aveyard writes a spirited political thriller with a heroine that always sacrifices herself for the greater good. I haven’t yet read the last novel because King’s Cage kind of pissed me off, but it is overall a good series. Oh and I love Maven. You gotta love an evil Prince/King.
There are so many other YA trends and tropes that we book bloggers just love to love and love to hate. It depends on our mood, how many we’ve read in a row, and as always if the character and plot draw us in. In my opinion we shouldn’t be too quick to write off a book just because the trope has been overdone. There are still some GREAT books out there that we don’t want to miss, right?
What’s your favorite or most hated YA Trend or Trope? Or are you like me and secretly like them all? Let me know in the comments!