genre: young adult historical fiction
At the heart of this novel is a girl and her family - bonded together by love and by circumstance - and an ages old empire on the brink of extinction.
As the youngest grand duchess in the family of Nicholas II Romanov, Anastasia has spent her insulated life among her older sisters and sickly younger brother. She's always ready for a prank, safe within a cocoon of wealth and privilege. Unfortunately, rumbles of unrest among her father's people begin to reach her ears through a boy she knows she probably should stay away from. And young love has a way of blossoming, even as the world Anastasia has always known begins to crumble around her.
Anastasia's Russian world, the political landscape and the closeness of the Romanov family all felt plausible and authentic. Her growth into young womanhood during such tumultuous times was especially poignant. Sometimes the first person narrative fell a little slack, but her aloofness felt almost like a forced maturity - as if she was searching for answers and a purpose for all the horrible changes to come upon her in such a short time. Occasionally, it was just a bit too spelled out for me.
Dunlap did her research and it was just deep enough for young readers to glimpse the horror of revolution without going over the edge. All the Russian names might turn some people off, but there is a nice guide in the beginning to help you out - and I do feel more knowledgeable about how Russian names work now. I know this book is being pushed as a love story - and I did enjoy that part of it, it certainly fleshed out Anastasia's character, but for me, the true draw of this story was its historical context and the inside view of one of the most famous historical stories told.