Review: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

12 March, 2014 Reviews 23 comments

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: Tsarina by J. Nelle PatrickTsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
Series: standalone
Published by Razorbill Books on February 27th 2014
Pages: 331
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook 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.

From Goodreads

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:

Anastasia and Dimitri

And the teensiest bit of this:

Anastasia dancing

It was mostly this:

Magic egg

Magic. Egg.

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.

Meg Morley

Meg Morley

Co-bloggery at Cuddlebuggery
Meg is an all-around book nerd who just really wants to talk about books, preferably with other people but by herself will do. Find her on Goodreads.

23 Responses to “Review: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick”

  1. Natalie

    Meg, you always review my kinda books! Fantasy…sci fi…history…

    I LOVE studying the Tsars or Russia! I saw this floating around a while ago and I think I’ll check it out but this whole egg business sounds super annoying.

    I prefer to outright hate a book than to enjoy it up until a certain crappy point. Hopefully I will love the magical egg and your issues won’t be my issues.

    I’m glad I am prepared though!
    Natalie recently posted…The Wolf’s Cry Book Tour – Day 2My Profile

    • Meg Morley

      I am with you on the preferring outright hatred, it’s so much better than being blindsided in the end.

      The egg is ignorable right up until the end (I mean, it’s there, but you can pretend it makes sense up until the very end). I hope you don’t have my issues! Forewarned is forearmed. 🙂

  2. Camilla

    Great review!
    I read another review recently of this book that had similar issues: that it’s not really what it claims to be and that a few strange elements keep it from being as fabulous as it could have been 🙂

    I have it on my “potential TBR” and think I will leave it there until one day when I might suddenly have a simultaneous hunkering for Russia and eggs…
    It could happen! 🙂
    Camilla recently posted…The TBR JarMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      Yeah, it’s very much not what it claimed to be. (WHERE ARE MY ROMANOVS? I WANT ROMANOVS!) but you know, I could’ve gotten over it if I hadn’t disliked the end as much as I did. I hope if you read it, it works out better for you.

    • Meg Morley

      Hahahaha. I know what you mean, I was so excited for this one. While there are highlights, it was definitely not the literary version of Anastasia I was hoping for.

    • Meg Morley

      Hello fellow Anastasia fan! 😀 I was also hoping for a Romanov-y story, but alas, they were nowhere to be found after the opening chapter.

  3. Christianna

    I had no idea that the egg was going to be such a big thing in this book. It sounds like things get real weird real quick. Oddly enough, it makes me wanna read this one even more, just because it sounds so ludicrous, and every once in awhile you need to read something like that. I guess I’ll just have to see what I feel about it when I read it though. Sounds like a library read…

    • Meg Morley

      It’s actually even more tragic because it takes awhile to get really weird. Long enough that I was hoping maybe it wouldn’t go there, but my hope was false. I definitely recommend library-ing it before purchase.

  4. Mari - Escape In A Book

    I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to read this book after this review. All I will be able to think is egg, egg, egg. Also I would have been very disappointed that there was really no Romanovs in the story. One of the most fascinating stories in history, I am so sad that their myth is debunked. Anyways that is me digressing (is that even the correct word for it? It might just be my Norwegian grammar slipping through the English vail).
    Mari – Escape In A Book recently posted…#review: Plus One by Elizabeth FamaMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      Right word (I think, I’m probably not the best person to ask :D) ANYHOO, yes it is very egg-y and not very Romanov-y. It was all very sad and upsetting.

    • Meg Morley

      I’ve heard great things too, it really depends on how much the end bothers you. I’ve definitely read and loved books with weird endings/plot devices before. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t wrapped up enough in this story to forgive it.

  5. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I really like this cover, but I don’t think I’d like this one because of how the magic egg business managed to get in the way. But I definitely like the idea of Russian history! I remember Christina from Reader of Fictions read this one and didn’t like it that much, so I may skip this one. Fantastic review, Meg! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl KlamMy Profile

  6. Mari @TheSirenicCodex

    Wah, I can’t believe I ignored this book for so long. The cover doesn’t look too good from afar, but I love Imperial Russia. Too bad it didn’t standout for you. I would really like something like an Anastasia remake 🙂

  7. Elisa (Just a Hunch Book Blog)

    This review was hilarious! Super bummer, though, because I love me some Romanovs annnnd I’m still shamefully into that old pseudo Disney Anastasia movie…I swear Once Upon a December gets stuck in my head at least once a week.

    Also, points for the author for having a name that tricks me into thinking it says Neil Patrick Harris at first glance.
    Elisa (Just a Hunch Book Blog) recently posted…Review of The Winner’s CurseMy Profile

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