The Last Romanov

Dora Levy Mossanen
The Last Romanov
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Release Date
April 2012
Historical Novel with Romantic Elements


She was an orphan, ushered into the royal palace on the prayers of her majestry. Yet, decades later, her time spent in the embrace of the Romanovs haunts her still. Is she responsible for those murderous events that changed everything?

If only she can find the heir, maybe she can put together the broken pieces of her own past-maybe she can hold on to the love she found. Bursting to life with the rich and glorious marvels of Imperial Russia, The Last Romanov is a magical tale of second chances and royal blood.

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Apr 10, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
120 people found the following review helpful
I majored in Russian history in college, so I was thrilled with the chance to read this book. And while I did have a few difficulties with the story's construction, there is no doubt that this is a complex historical drama, dense and rich with details and mystery.

In 1918, the Communist government ordered the execution of the Nicholas II, Tsar of All the Russians, along with his family, in an attempt to wipe out any threat to their newly established power. However, rumors lived on from that terrible night; rumors that not every member of the Romanov family had been killed, and that Alexei, the young Tsarevich, had escaped. Eighty years later, following the fall of the Soviet Union, those in Russia with strong ties to the aristocracy begin a desperate search to find Alexei, and establish him on the throne once again.

Leading the search is Darya Spiridova, once Alexei's nurse. Now 104 years old, Darya lives in a dark, memory-haunted palace that was once part of a Romanov estate, kept company only by her elderly servant and her memories. As the search for Alexei grows in urgency, Darya finds herself snared by the past, by the sights and scents of a time long dead—and of a betrayal that may have altered the course of history.

The plot of this story shifts consistently between Darya's present in the early 1990's and her past, from her early years as the child of rural aristocracy and her complex history with the Romanov family, to her scandalous, passionate love affair with Avram Bensheimer, a Jewish artist who finds his inspiration in Darya's arms. Blessed (or cursed) with an ‘opal eye', which allows her to see the nature of things that will come, Darya also possess the gift of healing, which makes her invaluable to the constantly ill Alexei and his panicked mother.

But the visions she receives from The Ancient One constantly reminds Darya that Russia is in peril—tensions between the aristocracy and the people are growing, and with war an ever-present threat—and it will take a miracle to rescue them all. In the hopes of helping the Tsarevich, Darya suggests a wandering Holy Man named Rasputin be brought to the Romanov court; however, when she meets him at last, Darya realizes she has finally met an adversary whose powers, for good or for evil, easily best her own, and that his influence over the royal family is far stronger than she can control.

The lush, descriptive narrative, though sometimes a little heavy-handed, bring to life the fading glory of the Romanov court, and the dingy world of post-Communist Russia. Historical characters, from the Empresses Alexandra to the Mad Monk Rasputin, are brought to life remarkably well; in fact, they felt as real as Darya, and perhaps more so, because such detail went into their construction that I could heard each voice clearly. This was especially true in the case of Rasputin, who is one of the most contested, duplicitous characters in modern Russian history. Here, he appears with all his charm and intensity, and forced me to keep reading even while I knew all the tragedy his continued presence would soon bring.

Darya strides through both worlds, a part of, and yet removed from both. She is admirably strong in the face of all her challenges and fiercely loyal to the royal family who takes her in as their own. She is a woman shrouded in mystery, from her fairytale-like childhood to the Faberge pendant filled with ambergris (a perfume fixative used during the days of the whaling trade), and those mysteries allow her to associate with so many varied people throughout her 104 years of life. I did have trouble empathizing with her sometimes, which kept me from falling completely into the world of this story. Her unique gifts and sight set her apart from those around her, but it also kept me as a reader from feeling close to her, as well.

While I was really impressed by the fact that the plot was constructed like a puzzle, coming together piece by piece, there were times it was also confusing. Hearing the result of an action before the action itself (for example, Darya finding the amulet she gave to Alexei on the day of his christening before explaining its meaning the nature of its loss) lessened some of the drama of a scene. This was noticeable because there were a number of truly intense moments, involving Avram and his artwork and Darya's interactions with Rasputin that were wonderfully memorable, and I wished I could have been as emotionally connected to other scenes in the book, as well.

All in all, this is an engrossing historical drama that blends mystery and memory together to tell a sprawling story. I wanted to feel closer to the story than I did, but there is no doubt that the research that went into this book helped create a vast and meticulous world that captures the imagination and lingers long after the pages ceased to turn.
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