A fantasy that reimagines the fate of Anastasia Romanov and her family.
It's 1918, and Nastya and her family are in exile in Tobolsk, Russia. With no clue as to what the family’s fate will be, her Papa, the deposed Tsar Nikolai, gives Nastya the mission of finding the magical matryoshka doll created by Vasily Dochkin, “Russia’s most respected and skilled spell master,” which could save the family. The family is relocated to Ekaterinburg, and, throughout their confinement, Nastya’s Papa stresses the importance of kindness and forgiving their captors. She commits to following his example by befriending one of the Bolshevik guards watching the family, Zash, a young man from an unspecified semi-nomadic Siberian ethnic group who has his own reasons for hating the Romanovs. As the Romanov family adjusts to their new life, Nastya and Zash grow closer even though they know only pain can come of their relationship. Then the unimaginable happens—and Nastya must find a way to save her family. Brandes’ (Fawkes, 2018, etc.) accuracy in this retelling—the majority of the characters and events are true—and the bits of Russian sprinkled throughout are highlights. However, the second half of Nastya’s story is a noticeable departure from the well-paced beginning; it feels almost like a separate story with a forced romance and a focus on Nastya’s internal turmoil.
A promising retelling that misses the magical mark. (author’s notes, discussion questions) (Historical fantasy. 13-18)