Review: Tsarina

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: TsarinaTsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
Published by Razorbill on February 27, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Pages: 331
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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two-stars

Natalya knows a secret.

A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.

But it's in the wrong hands.

Russian history ranks highly among my favorite kinds of history. Let’s be honest: some crazy shit happened in Russia. There are so many amazing stories to be told. As such, I was thrilled to hear about J. Nelle Patrick’s Tsarina. The fact that Patrick is actually a pseudonym for Jackson Pearce upped my excitement, since I really enjoyed Sisters Red. The Russia stuff is delightful and the writing solid, but Tsarina took more of a fantasy angle than I was really expecting.

Let’s deal with the Romanov in the room first. Alexei died at thirteen, something that was only definitively proven a few years ago. In Tsarina, I don’t think Patrick mentioned how old he is, but he has either been aged up a bit or his intended, Natalya, is older than he is. I suspect the former, but Patrick’s Author’s Notes don’t mention that, though they do reference the fact that he didn’t have an intended as he does in the book. The history certainly doesn’t support the events of Tsarina, but I’m honestly okay with that so long as there are no pretenses made and Patrick’s up front with the fact that this is not purely history.

Though I never really bonded with Natalya, I think that Patrick does an excellent job with both Natalya and her friend Emilia. Oftentimes, the wealthy in novels seem very down-to-earth and unspoiled by their upbringings. Both Natalya and Emilia truly seem like they’ve been pampered all their lives. Their feet are quickly ripped to shreds as they try to escape the revolution, for example. Mentally, they still retain a feeling of superiority, even while having their values questioned. Occasionally, they’re brats. They do adapt pretty well, but it’s pretty convincingly done. I will warn you, though, that the book is entirely about Natalya and the Romanovs barely figure in it at all, except from a distance. If you’re reading for their adventures, you’ll be disappointed.

The other aspect of Tsarina that I find especially fascinating is the portrayal of Rasputin. Once again, Rasputin isn’t actually in the book, though his influence is heavily felt; he’s already died, after a poisoning, stabbing and finally drowning. What I find so fascinating is that, unlike in every other fictional version of Romanov times I’ve encountered, he’s not a villain. He’s not a hero, either, but there’s a real sympathy for what he’s been through and a suggestion that he really did have the monarchy’s best interests at heart. I’m not quite sure what to make of that, but it’s certainly an interesting and unique spin.

However, I simply do not find the direction in which the plot went compelling, and Tsarina has the kind of open ending which is just frustrating, because it begs so many historical questions about what happened next. The plot centers around the existence of a magical fabergé egg, imbued with Rasputin’s power which protects the monarchy. During the revolution, the egg is taken, and Natalya goes on a quest to find it to save Alexei and Russia. Though I love the way Natalya’s relationship with Alexei is handled (View Spoiler »), the resolution of both the romance and the egg plot induced eyerolls of epic proportions. View Spoiler » The ending was a freaking plotberg and I just cannot.

Tsarina begins beautifully and grandly, but ends with a turn into the fantastic and cheesy. Perhaps some of my issues are ones of expectation, like expecting there to be a good deal more history than fantasy, but I’m definitely left disappointed.

Favorite Quote:

“A thing only a general’s daughter could say,” I corrected. “I may be a lady, but I know the difference between a Gewehr and a Karabiner. I can tell you about every major battle Russia has fought for the last hundred years. I was in Odessa, lived through the rebellion there. And I can tell you, without question, that it’s too late for any man who goes to war. Even if he lives, he’ll never come back the same.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Not really what I was expecting.

Not really what I was expecting.

18 responses to “Review: Tsarina”

  1. Meg says:

    I had stuff I was going to say about the book and your review but can’t remember because HAAAAA THAT GIF!! ‘GRANDMOTHER, IT IS I, ANASTASIA’ I love that movie, so much. Well gif-ed and well captioned.

    PLOTBERG IS CATCHING ON! YESSSSSSS!

    And omg, this book. I can’t. I wanted it be good but magic eggs, no. Also, why no Romanovs? (Or, more accurately, why so little Romanovs?) I may still read it because I’m not ready to give up, but I am very much no longer in a rush. Sad faces all around.
    Meg recently posted…Review: Cress by Marissa MeyerMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I was SO HAPPY when I found that GIF. I knew I needed something from Anastasia, but not what and then PERFECTION APPEARED.

      Plotberg is the best term.

      Ugh, the magic egg of divining your feelings. If there had at least been more Romanovs in the beginning, maybe I would have been sad when they died or I might have bought into the romance. As it is, no.

  2. Hmmm, I still think I want to try this one, but the fact that the Romanovs, and Rasputin (let’s be real – ESPECIALLY Rasputin) are more in the distance and sidelines is a bit disappointing.

    We really need a few quality books about both of them, don’t we?!
    Rachelia (Bookish Comforts) recently posted…{Review} Faking Normal by Courtney C. StevensMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Rasputin is fully dead during the whole book. His influence lingers, but he will make nary an appearance. haha.

      This just sounded so perfect for me. Of course, every time I think that, things go wrong. *sobs*

  3. Hmm, I was really excited for Tsarina because I love Russian history, but now I’m not so sure if this is the book for me after all. Like you, I expected more history than fantasy so I’m disappointed learning that this is not the case.

    Open endings are the worst, in my opinion at least. I hate them. I want at least a little closure after finishing! Thanks for reviewing. But what is a plotberg (should I know this word?)?

    • Christina Franke says:

      A plotberg is where the plot hits an iceberg and the book, previously awesome, sinks like the Titanic. Meg of Cuddlebuggery coined the term for These Broken Stars. I love it, and will continue to use it.

  4. I don’t even know what a plotberg is (like a plot iceburg that comes out of nowhere and derails the whole book?) but I want to start using it immediately because I laughed when I read that, in spite of not even knowing what it means.

    I love the idea of this book but it looks like the execution leaves a lot to be desired. 🙁

    Does there exist a example good Romanov fiction?
    Kim @ The Avid Reader recently posted…Book Review: Poison Dance by Livia BlackburneMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      That is exactly what a plotberg is. A book that previously seemed strong and unsinkable hits one and BAM, down it goes.

      I’m sure there DOES exist a good example, but I don’t know that I have any to-hand, I’m afraid.

  5. I definitely thought that the Romanovs would be more heavily featured in this. Maybe I should read summaries before getting excited about books, because I always seem to come up with amazing plots and subplots all by myself.

    I’m not sure I really want to read about an egg.

    Now I have Once Upon a December stuck in my head and everything is NOT OKAY. “Princesses don’t marry kitchen boys.” Bye for now.
    Amber @ Books of Amber recently posted…Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yeah, I am disappoint, but I also don’t read book blurbs generally. They certainly are selling it on the Romanov connection. On the one hand, it’s cool to do something different, but why is the something different THIS? Oh well.

  6. Kelly says:

    If someone, say, had very little-to-no knowledge of Russian history, and thus had very little in terms of expectations, do you think that person might enjoy Tsarina?

    To be honest? My only real “knowledge” of Russian history is the Disney movie Anastasia. And even that is sketchy, at best.

    From your review (I didn’t read the spoilers) the only thing that’s scary me a little is the open ending, but that also sounds like it might not bother me since I don’t know anything much about Russian history?
    Kelly recently posted…Book Review: The First DaysMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hmmm, I don’t know that historical knowledge is really necessary. I think there are a couple of scenes that will be more intense if you weren’t spoilered by history knowledge. The problem with the ending wasn’t really one of historical inaccuracy, so much as it feeling like the book was on drugs.

      BUT if you’re interested in it, then try it for yourself. I’m sure lots of people will still really like it, since it reminds me of a book I remain the black sheep on.

  7. Aww I definitely hate when a book starts off really great, sucking you in and raising your expectations but then it seems to end up disappointing you in the end. I’ve also noticed the trend where wealthy people remain generally good and unspoiled so I’m glad that this aspect was approached differently in the book. Fantastic review, Christina! <33 I'm sorry this one wasn't totally on point with the Russian history.
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…January Monthly RecapMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yes! These are the books that really get me, because, by the time things go south, I’m too far in to DNF. It’s a tragedy.

  8. Hahaha, I love the GIF. I adore that movie.

    The open ending scares me. I rarely enjoy these type of endings, because they always leave such an unsatisfying feeling. I’m still interested to see this influence of Rasputin and his original portrayal. I also like that the characters feel spoiled, so I’m interested to see how this works out. I have an eARC waiting for me.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 232. Rick Yancey – The 5th wave.My Profile

  9. Bonnie says:

    So I wasn’t super interested in this one so went ahead and read your spoilers and, uh, no. I mean seriously, what is that? Thanks for putting that in there and saving me the pain.
    Bonnie recently posted…Early Review – Honor’s Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel BachMy Profile

  10. Roro says:

    I’m expecting more fantasy than historical fiction and I’m mostly okay with open endings. I think I’ll love this book .tnx for the review
    Roro recently posted…Review: Out Of The Pocket by Bill KONIGSBERGMy Profile

  11. Ellis says:

    This book sounds pretty tragic, but I mainly wanted to let you know that I just googled plotberg (to see what it would generate) and your review is the tenth hit. Meg’s These Broken Stars review is the third. FEEL SPECIAL.
    Ellis recently posted…Review – Saving FrancescaMy Profile

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