Book Review || Romanov by Nadine Brandes


Hello, bookish people! Today the post is a surprise, because I wasn’t planning to finish the book so soon, but I did. Now I feel the huge need to write down a very fresh review for the novel, because:

  • I really need to raise my Netgalley ratio
  • I’ve another need and it’s about expressing probably my black sheep opinion

Yeah, reasons aren’t that deep but I also want to take out this review of a book I took too much time to read. And I’ve to express my feelings, of course.

TW: death of beloved ones, execution

divisorio due


Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 352
Rating: ★  

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.

mini divisorio

When I first requested Romanov I didn’t notice the author was the same of  Fawkes . I realized only later, but I said to myself: oh, well! It’s a good way to see the author improved. You know, since I really didn’t like the other book.

So… I think me and Brandes will close the author-reader relationship here. I thought a lot about what kind of rating to give the novel, and I moved towards two stars, but as I set down to write the review, I realized how nothing had worked for me.

First of all, let’s have a brief summary of the historical event. While the author has done her research in terms of historical timelines, I noticed how around there are a number of concerning stuff about the actual representation. Because history isn’t only about what happened, but why happened, the politics, the society and so more.
I remember someone pointing on Twitter how sure, it was unfair the Romanov children had to die, but wasn’t like the Romanov were angels. So, I did a fast check on Goodreads and the concern about the romanticized version of the story, seen from Nastya’s POV, can easily trap the whole narration in a single way.

Another factor is the character of Zash, whom background is more delicate then what someone can think. As much as I recall from my University researches on shamanism, after the revolution and once the new govern was on, well… shamans from Siberian tribes started being persecuted and their culture vilified or denigrated. But also, before too. There’s something big to unpack there.

Another thing put me off at the end of the read. I was checking the author note and noticed how Brandes mentioned her decision to change a surname because “was just too much of a mouthful“. As I reader, I wouldn’t have mind to see the character use a name instead a surname to refer to another character, and I’m not in You’re welcome mode. Because it wasn’t a smart decision. It was ignorant.

Now, let’s move to what didn’t work in the depth of the story. First of all, thanks to the whole thing, I realized that Romanov is one of the rare cases in which I cannot felt any kind of attachment or enjoyment from the story. The relation of Nastya and her family was sure very sweet and strong, but I cannot say the same for the rest. Why Nastya and Zash? Just why? Because I couldn’t see their story move on or actually being a romance. And to be totally honest, Zash’s story was much more compelling than Nastya one. His background, his feelings and position inside Russia’s event and history would have create an amazing story.

Second think that didn’t work was the pace. Everything moved fast and slow at the same time. The division of the event was messy, because one moment we’re in a place and a time, next part of the text we are somewhere else. Around the 30% the plot hadn’t moved that much and same thing I can say from when I reached the 50%. Things started to actually move when only the 70% of the book was done.

The scenery was poor. There was… almost nothing? It could have been set anywhere and make very little difference. More rich descriptions were definitely needed.

Another bad note was the magic system. As it was never explained, it made very little sense if none at all. We know there’s ink, there spell, but how does spell are put in the ink? Where does the magic comes from? How do you bond a spell to a person? How does magic bond with the religion of the protagonist, since usually magic is not seen as God’s product.

My notes on Romanov could go on and on, because I’m sure that I’ll find a way to add something to the list, so I’ll close it here and hope someone will enjoy the books much more than what I did. But looks it won’t be a problem, since many did.

divisorio uno



7 thoughts on “Book Review || Romanov by Nadine Brandes

  1. Great review! I definitely enjoyed it more than you, but I have to agree that the romance was absolutely 100% unnecessary. And instead of bringing something interesting to the story, it slightly ruined my vision of Anastasia as this strong female character. I would have loved for Nadine Brandes to focus more on friendship and family bonds instead.

    I actually didn’t mind that “magic” (if we can call it that) wasn’t explained. It gave this feeling of magical realism, which I love 🙂


    • There’s nothing wrong with a romance and a strong femal character because one doesn’t exclude the other. I think that the romance problem was that it was just there… and didn’t had much, or made very little sense.
      Also because dynamics between prisoners and guards are often much more complicated.

      Mmmh, I wouldn’t say that remind of magic realism. Brandes work on that part of the worldbuilding. She kinda did the same thing in her last book, but for reasons in that one everything was explained much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this! I didn’t enjoy this either, I felt it was really dull and the pacing was really off. Moreover, it lacks the explanation on why the whole thing happened. This book only talks about Rasputin and how the people misunderstood the family. Yet this book made no mention of the loses in the war that amplify the people’s hatred for the Romanovs. While the Tsar might be a good person, it takes more than that to be a good king. And while I think the children should die, I also understand why they did have to die. The Romanovs is such a complex historical tragedy that can’t be captured in a romanticized story.

    Liked by 1 person

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