Anastasia, or Nastya as she is affectionately called by her family, is a Romanov which means her life is currently at risk. Just like her family, Nastya is strong, kind and loyal, but “not even royal blood can stop bullets.” Luckily, the Romanovs have something the Bolshevik army does not and her father has left Nastya in charge of. Nastya is protecting magic that could save her family.
In her quest, she unintentionally semi-befriends a Bolshevik, Zash. Although he was very closed off at first, Zash proves himself a friend when he helps Nastya get spell ink to relieve her bother’s pain. However, Nastya questions if he ever cared about her or her family when she finds herself at the nasty end of his gun. Zash’s character is a real mystery for a large chunk of the book, though he certainly makes the story a little more interesting.
Speaking of the story, it was a beautifully written emotional roller coaster of a read. I previously knew little to nothing about the Romanov family, but the first half (which Brandes says is mostly historically accurate) seemed so real and raw. The second half caused a little anxiety with the ‘will they survive or will it all be for nothing’ question circling my head. I was invested in the characters, captivated by the story and was hoping there was at least a partial win for the characters I came to care for.
The only complaint is that at times it would feel rather slow while other parts happened very quick. This may have been intentional, a ‘calm before the storm’ technique, but there were times a scene would fly by so quick that I needed to go back and reread the scene to fully understand the what/why/who/how of it all.
Overall, another amazing book from Brandes and it only has me more excited to read what she writes next!