Two outsiders and a monstrous dictator deal with tumultuous world events.
Beginning with the oft-rumored escape and survival of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, this novel twists and turns through some of the most significant historical events of the 20th century. Under the watchful eye of the sympathetic Count Carl Zurofsky, the girl, now known only as Anna, grows up in Romania. All the while, her country and birthright face upheaval and strife as history takes its course through world war, revolution, advancement, and tyranny. Both Anna and Carl are point-of-view characters, offering perspectives as outsiders, victims, and recipients of dramatic legacies. In fact, Carl’s family descends from Count Dracula, a history that stains him even as it inspires him to do good from the shadows. But since both Anna and Carl are somewhat removed from the centers of power they might otherwise occupy, the novel offers readers the perspective of none other than Stalin himself as he shapes history and is shaped by it in turn. The industrial backdrop of Russia’s five-year plans stands in stark contrast to the wild, pastoral beauty of Anna’s new surroundings. At the same time, her discovery of love and forgiveness is vastly different from Stalin’s struggles with power, corruption, and the fragile nonaggression pact he strikes with Germany on the eve of World War II. Logan (Time Is of the Essence, 2008, etc.) approaches this historical novel with a surprising poetic flair. The character perspectives switch back and forth frequently, although the engrossing narration does sometimes linger on one setting over the other when history demands a longer, more thorough treatment of a particular time or event. Meanwhile, the prose is flexible, readily shifting between traditional, effective dialogue and more verselike descriptions, making reading it a new experience. Fans of historical fiction may find the novel’s creative liberties a little fanciful or its short length insufficient to convey the temporal details common to the genre. But if readers keep an open mind, they’ll be treated to a lyrical, character-focused journey into events and figures rarely humanized in fiction.
An unusual historical novel not soon forgotten.