Author: J. Nelle Patrick (pen name of Jackson Pearce)
Imperial Russia swirls with rebellion. The Reds are gaining ground, and the loyal Whites struggle to hold Saint Petersburg. But Natalya isn’t afraid. Wrapped in fur and tucked inside her lavish home, she feels safe. Alexei Romanov, her first love, has told her a secret: Hidden within the Winter Palace lies a Faberge Egg enchanted by the mystic Rasputin. With it, the Romanovs will never fall from power. The Reds will never take the country. And one day, Alexei will ascend the throne and Natalya will be beside him— the tsarina of Russia. But when the Reds raid the Winter Palace, the egg vanishes and the Romanovs are captured. Natalya must find the egg to save Alexei, her way of life, and her royal future. To do so, she’s forced to ally herself with the enemy— a young Red named Leo who wants the egg for his own purposes. But as they brave a war-battered landscape of snow and magic, Natalya realizes that the world isn’t as simple as it seemed back in Saint Petersburg. Nothing– not friends, not politics, and not love– are as clear as Red and White.
This might be historical fiction, or it might be historical fantasy. I’m not quite sure where to draw the line. In any case, it was the fantasy element of the magical fabrege egg that appealed to me in Tsarina. So I checked it out from the library and started reading one ambitious Saturday after finishing two other books.
At page twenty, I was ready to give up. So far, it was a picture of Russian high society, Natalya and Alexei’s romance, and a very brief bit about what the egg could do. The society was interesting, and the romance was awfully sweet, but it wasn’t what I signed up for. I wanted a revolution and quest for the egg and whoever the heck Leo was. If it wasn’t for my 100-page rule, I would have given up.
Then the revolution happened, and Natalya was so worried about Alexei that I felt terrible because I knew how that ended. But I kept reading because I actually like Natalya. She was brave and strong and such a patriot. Leo was also a patriot, but he had such a different upbrining, he came to a much different conclusion of what Russia needed. It made me sad, really. There was so much bloodshed between two groups that loved the same country.
The storyline wasn’t exactly what I expected, either. I thought Natalya would go after the egg. Really, the egg was important, but it came second to getting out of St. Petersburg, escaping Leo, and getting her friend Emilia to Paris. Plus, I knew where the egg was the whole time, so the suspense wasn’t as much of “where’s the egg?” as it was “how the heck is Natalya going to get it out of there?”
Despite a not-so-stellar beginning, Tsarina turned out to be a pretty good book. According to the author’s note in the back, most of the history isn’t accurate (although Rasputin’s daughter was a real person), so I can’t say I learned a lot about the time period. But I did enjoy the story, which is definitely something.