(**** of five)
Good god, I loved this book. I gave it four stars, which I think is the correct number, but if I was going on how much I loved it I would have given it five. I loved this book. That being said, I’ve been in love with the Russian Revolution since I was a kid and that was even before the film Anastasia (cartoon classic!) came out and I loved it even more. That whole part of history was, in a word, fascinating. It doesn’t really need embellishment from magic and fictional characters, but a hearty dose never really hurt anyone. This story was pretty damned unique and was told about as richly as anyone could ask for the book which is technically YA (Ms. Patrick [do we really need to call her that as we all know the author is, in fact, Jackson Pearce of the retold fairytales fame] writes much better than most other YA authors). The elements of magic are extraordinary, of course, but this setting so mythic at this point that I had no problem believing it.
Natalya Kutepova has known nothing but luxury. The daughter of a military general she’s a member of the Russian nobility and as the intended of the tsarevich, Alexei Romanov, there are no doors which she may not enter. But when the people of her country rise up in revolution Alexei is suddenly taken away to Ekaterinburg; and the magical Fabergé egg, spelled by the powerful mystic Rasputin before his death, which protects the imperial family goes missing. Natalya knows she must find the egg and keep it out of the hands of the Red revolutionaries, but that is easier said than done for a noble girl in a sea of Red. Together with her friend Emilia and a young revolutionary named Leo, who might just have his own agenda, Natalya travels from St. Petersburg to Moscow in search of the only other person she knows of that knew of the egg’s existence.
Several things, of course. I wont get into any changes to history. We all know Alexei Romanov was thirteen and did not have anything like a ‘girl’ at the time of his death. Time was compressed. There definitely wasn’t any sort of magic egg that protected the imperial family (though I wouldn’t be surprised if Rasputin tried to sell them one). But of course, this is fiction. Ms. Patrick goes through a nice little list of fictions in her afterward, which I found very responsible of her. Fiction, even historical fiction, needs some license and if this book inspires one kid to be as interested in the Romanovs as Anastasia did me then I think the authors work is done. Still, I am in no way convinced that if the tsarevich did have a girl that their marriage would be a foregone conclusion. He would, surely, have been required to marry a princess, duchess, or countess at the very least. Though it was a turbulent time, things were changing, and who really knows since it never came up.
Another thing, the author is able to capture two things about this time period. The Romance of the imperial court (as all things that are long gone and seem very pretty are Romantic) and the how complicated the Revolution really was. It is very easy to sit on our twenty first century perches and point towards the Bolsheviks as being foolhardy and overly violent, when the matter was far more complicated. Yes, we know that Communism doesn’t really work on a scale as large as the USSR attempted, but that doesn’t make the ideals any less attractive. Patrick brings up some very good points on this matter in the character of Leo, but Natalya’s own imperialist views are on the forefront and the conclusion of this story comes off that way. I would probably have written it the same way as I am hopelessly attached to the Romanovs and a sucker for courts and nobles. Especially when they are coupled with samovars and snow.