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.Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
Published by Razorbill Books on February 27th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
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 not in the right hands.
Tsarina, Tsarina, why wouldn’t you let me love you? I wanted to love this book you guys. It’s imperial Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution. THERE ARE ROMANOVS (according to the blurb which is a complete LIE because there is only a physical Romanov presence in the first chapter). I can’t be the only one who looked at this book and thought
And while there was some of this:
And the teensiest bit of this:
It was mostly this:
There are two circumstances under which I will accept magical realism. I like when it’s a kind of trick i.e. was it magic or just how you see things? Did magic egg stop the bullets from hitting the tsarina or was it the jewels in her gown? It’s open for interpretation depending on whether you believe the world is magic or not. It engages the reader’s brain, adds a touch of subtle mystery and it’s awesome. Tsarina did not employ this method.
Okay, that’s cool, there’s another acceptable circumstance. I can deal with magical realism when it’s a thing about the world. An actual, prevalent part of the world, not an isolated instance that apparently happened to create the circumstances of the story. To be fair, no one actually checked in with anyone else around the globe to see if they had any magic eggs lying around. Maybe the success of the British Empire can be attributed to a magical egg of their very own, but you definitely come out of Tsarina with the impression that this egg is a special egg. (Case in point, people are primarily referring to it as historical fiction and while I am not a history scholar of any kind, I’ve taken a number of history classes and have no recollection of any MAGIC EGGS.)
It was random, is what I’m trying to say. And I don’t mean random in the modern colloquial sense. I mean random in the dictionary sense: occurring without definite aim, reason or pattern. Seriously, why magic egg? Why? Why did you have to be such a thing? There was so much else going on. This is a fascinating period of history, this story could have gone in so many egg-as-metaphor directions. Instead it went full-on literal (again, not a colloquialism) magic egg.
It may seem like I’m crying plotberg, (for the uninformed, a plotberg is when an already moving along plot out of nowhere takes an inexplicable turn for the strange and ludicrous and it totally wrecks the rest of the book) that’s not technically accurate. I saw the hostile egg takeover coming, afterall, the entire plot is basically ‘and now we hunt for the magic egg,’ I just kept hoping it, I don’t know, wouldn’t. But no, the egg becomes a larger and larger part of the story until it totally wiped out all of the things I actually liked by smashing me in the face with the Iron Shovel of Finale Manufacturing.
Oh yes, there were a number of things I liked, for a good chunk of the book I was really enjoying myself. While I didn’t fully connect to any of the characters, Natalya was impressively not annoying given that she was suddenly a pampered rich girl on the run. Her friendship with Emilia was pleasantly solid (no jealousy, no bickering, they supported each other and each kept the other one going). The Natalya/Emilia/Leo dynamic was cute and fun and I could’ve read the three of them going on wacky adventures all day. But, alas.
The ship was…well, it was. Much like the egg, it took a turn for the inexplicable at the end, and I wasn’t feeling it enough to be rooting beyond reason for the outcome, so reason interfered and made the whole thing distinctly wtf-y. (To be fair, my problem might have been all egg, but we’ll never know because of that stupid freaking egg.)
To conclude, Tsarina was a delightful adventure packed with interesting historical bits, the ship was a bit on the meh side, but the friendship dynamics were top notch. Unfortunately someone took this casserole of awesome and dumped egg all over the top. And then left it out to go bad, stinky, rotten egg bad. Read at your own risk, you have been warned.