Thomas Nelson. May 2019. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780785217244.
Gr 8 Up–The last days of the Romanovs are explored in this historical fantasy. During the Russian Civil War, the Romanovs are exiled to Siberia, awaiting trial, rescue, or death. Anastasia wants to assist her family in any way possible, so when her father asks her to protect a magical Matryoshka doll, she knows their survival depends on her success. However, the Bolsheviks also want the mysterious doll and its power for themselves. As the war between the Bolsheviks and the White Army gets closer to the family’s prison, the hope of rescue is increased, but so is the fear of death. Complicating matters is the Romanovs’ devotion to the Russian people and the need to protect their people over their own freedom. These stresses take their toll on Anastasia. All she wants is a simple life for her loved ones, but is that even possible? Brandes focuses on character development and makes the mysterious Romanovs much more relatable to readers. However, the world-building around the Russian Civil War is underdeveloped, which can be jarring when it is brought up in the text. The use of fantasy and magic is an interesting twist, but could have been developed more. However, the plot and character building provide a great entry point to readers new to historical fantasy.
VERDICT Older fans of the animated film Anastasia will enjoy this story, as will fans of R.L. LaFevers, Evelyn Skye, and Lucy Worsley’s YA novels.  Place in the hands of readers new to the historical fantasy genre.

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