But Natalya’s first love and heir to the Russian throne, Alexei Romanov, whispers a secret in her ear: Hidden within the Winter Palace lies a Faberge Egg enchanted by the powerful mystic Rasputin. With it, the Romanovs will never fall from power. The Reds will never triumph over the Whites. 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. She’s forced to ally herself with an enemy – a young Red named Leo who wants the egg for his own purposes. 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, not even love – is as clear as Red and White.
First Sentence: The rioters at the gates were loud, but no match for the music inside the Winter Palace.
As the negative and meh reviews for Tsarina piled up the week of its release, it didn’t decrease any of my interest in reading the book. For some reason, the cover of Tsarina just draws me in, making me want to get the book in my hands asap. I didn’t really care about anything else about Tsarina – I didn’t know the book was set during the Russian Revolution, that the book is about the tsar and his family, and that there were eggs mentioned in the book. All I just cared about was the cover. Yes, I know that makes me sound like a fairly shallow person, but I just could not get over the gorgeous colors and that beautiful font on the cover. Three months later after Tsarina‘s release, I finally gave in to the tempatation and borrowed the book from the library, hoping the book would be as good as its cover.
How could a city so full of people feel so void of souls? Emilia and I didn’t dare go out while the mob had dispersed, packs of Red roamed the street like wolves. They broke into stores, destroyed everything in their path, tipped carriages and stole horses. (65)
As I was reading Tsarina, I found myself really enjoying the historical aspects of the book. The setting was rich, detailed, and so vivid. While reading, I felt like I was actually in Russia during the Russian Revolution – that’s how powerful the setting and the whole situation was. It was like watching everything unfold in front of my eyes. I also loved reading about the different points of views of what was happening and discovering what each side really wanted. Reading Tsarina made me want to read more books focused on the Russian Revolution since it is such an interesting part of history, so if you have any recommendations on young adult books set during the time of the Russian Revolution, let me know.
There is romance in Tsarina like the summary of the book indicated, but it is a complicated romance because while there is love triangle, at the same time, there also isn’t a love triangle. It all depends on perspective. Basically, Alexei and Natalya were together at the beginning of Tsarina, got split up, Natalya and Leo meet, get to hang out together, and slowly fall in love while Alexei is completely out of the picture. I wasn’t sold on Natalya and Leo’s romance – I barely felt any sparks between them when they were together – but on the other hand, I really felt for Alexei and Natalya’s bittersweet romance despite how little time they spent together. The romance in Tsarina ended on an iffy note and, well, I wanted some definite answers.
They were a swarm of locusts with a never-ending hunger for destruction and the tireless chant for land, peace, bread. Land, peace, bread. Land, peace, bread. The words were beaten into my brain so hard that they hardly sounded like words at all anymore. (65)
The ending of Tsarina was…weird. It made me a little confused, ultimately solved nothing, and left the book on an unfinished note. I don’t know if J. Nelle Patrick purposely wanted to make us feel that way like Lauren Oliver, to leave us with an open ending, but again, it just didn’t work out for me. There’s a little part of me whispering in my brain saying that after reading that ending, reading Tsarina was a waste of time while the other part of my brain was glad I read the book anyway.
Overall, despite the fact that I enjoyed reading Tsarina, it was missing that ultimate “umph” factor that made me like the book even more. Don’t get me wrong, Tsarina is a great read, but ultimately, it doesn’t impress me much. If you’re looking for a book set during the Russian Revolution, I would definitely recommend Tsarina, but other than that, I don’t see what’s really that special about the book.