by Sarah Miller
Reading level: YA
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand--first headstrong Olga; then Tatiana, the tallest; Maria the most hopeful for a ring; and Anastasia, the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand duchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are each on the brink of starting their own lives, at the mercy of royal matchmakers. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together--sisters that link arms and laugh, sisters that share their dreams and worries, and flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.
But in a gunshot the future changes for these sisters and for Russia.
As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny, and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood together is colliding with the end of more than they ever imagined.
At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naive and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, this novel by acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia with lyricism, criticism and true compassion. (synopsis from Goodreads)
When I heard that Sarah Miller was working on a book about the Romanov daughters, I was really excited. While this subject matter is not new in the YA genre (Laura Whitcomb's The Fetch and Joy Preble's Dreaming Anastasia come to mind), this is the first YA novel I've read about the Romanovs that is pure historical fiction (both of those other books deal with the survival myths and contain supernatural elements).
I've been fascinated by the family for a while, even before I was given Hugh Brewster's beautiful Anastasia's Album. So I knew the basic story about the doomed family. Strangely enough, though, even knowing how things are going to end doesn't make this book any less fascinating or engaging. The character development is really strong. It's easier to see the girls as real people, rather than just as characters in a story or as dry historical personages. I learned more about some of the older girls that I hadn't known, since so much focus seems to have been paid to Anastasia in the last 100 years; in this version of the story, she actually takes more of a backseat to her sisters, which is refreshing.
The actual writing itself is excellent, and the author knows what she's doing. It's lovely to see. I think I'll have to read Miss Spitfire now, since I know I can count on good writing from this author.
Overall: 4.57 out of 5