First Lines: The rioters at the gate were loud, but no match for the music inside the Winter Palace.

As someone who once voluntarily gave a speech in high school about Anastasia Romanov, I knew that eventually I was going to get around to reading this book.  A focus on Alexei instead of Anastasia?  That looked new, promising, and exciting.

Natalya, a noblewoman in Imperial Russia, feels like her life is nearly perfect.  As the intended for Alexei Romanov, Natalya will someday be tsarina.  But the Reds in the streets are on the verge of started a revolution that will threaten Natalya’s world as she knows it.  As long as the strange (and possibly magical) Constellation Fabrege egg stays in the Winter Palace, Natalya’s future is safe.  But when the Winter Palace falls into the hands of the Reds, and the egg as well, how far will Natalya go to save Russia?  To save Alexei?  With the help of a young Red looking for the egg himself, Natalya’s world just got vastly more complicated.

I found this to be a charming story.  It was about a historical time period in which I am already incredibly interested in and it twisted the story slightly by talking about Alexei instead of Anastasia.  The premise was different and moved at a good clip, considering Russia is a powder keg just waiting for a spark.

Natalya was a good lead for this story.  She was strong, stubborn, determined, and compassionate.  It was a good combination, and it was easy to see why she could be tsarina someday.  Natalya’s best friend Emilia was strong but fearful.  She was a nice contrast to Natalya’s stubborn strength because Emilia couldn’t handle some of the same things Natalya could.  And Leo, the young Red, he was quite the character.  Determined, clever, and sympathetic.  Though Alexei wasn’t in the story much, it was easy to see how sweet and charming he was.

One thing that has stuck with me is how the author’s note said she wrote this in part to show how we must remember that our enemies are still people too.  When we see our enemies as simply those who oppose us, they stop being human.  She wrote this to help show that we’re more alike than we think we are.  I think she easily succeeded in her mission.  In this day and age, it’s so easy to forget that our enemies are still people with lives, feelings, family.  We see them as what they stand for, not as people.  This book was a nice example of how we can still work together, even though we have opposing viewpoints.

There were a few things I had small issues with.  First of all, the historical timeline was incredibly sped up.  And I realize why this was done.  (The author even mentions this in her author’s note as well, stating that this book is not a textbook, it’s a novel.)  I don’t know if I would have liked the book as well if there was so much downtime for the characters.  The excitement kept the story going.  But that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel a twinge of something icky inside, knowing that the timeline was sped up.  It’s the history nerd in me.

But I also thought the story could have stood on its own legs without the magical/mystical angle to it.  Of course, most people are aware of Rasputin’s legendary accomplishments that took “magic”, but the story took it beyond that.  Again, it did make the story exciting and was basically the plot.  I just wish it had been more historically factual.  This is, once again, the history nerd in me coming out.  I just think Imperial Russia is exciting as it is.

Overall, though, it was an exciting read that tours some beautiful sites in 1917ish Russia with a nice cast of characters.  I enjoyed it.

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