Title: The Last Romanov
Author: Dora Levy Mossanen
Pub. Date: April, 2012
Summary: Taking readers deep into tarnished grandeur, The Last Romanov follows Darya, a wise old beauty whose time spent with the Imperial family has haunted her entire life. When the murderous events unfold, Darya is plagued by the prophecy made by the Empress’s advisor, Rasputin. She must find the missing Tsarevich Alexis Romanov and restore the monarchy or risk losing her own life.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
The Romanovs are a huge interest of mine and regardless of how many books come out with the same plot (one or more of the children survived and must be found) I will never tire of reading about it. I love it, I love it, I love it. So when I first heard about this book, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Much to my surprise (and utter delight!) I received an ARC and immediately began reading.
“You are special, my darling. Different than other girls. You’ll change our world one day.”
Darya Borodina Spiridova is not like most girls. She has a certain gift, the ability to heal. Combine that with her odd eye – a cracked translucent opal – and you have the makings of a legend. Few people are able to look her in the eyes without terror and many people think of her as a witch. Her mother, Princess Sabrina, only sees her gifts as good and takes comfort knowing her daughter has a king of second sight.
From the very beginning I was a little disheartened. Nowhere in the summary did it mention The Last Romanov had paranormal elements (although I knew there would be at the very least some mysticism due to Grigori Rasputin). Unfortunately, paranormal is not a genre I enjoy and would have loved to have known what I was getting into before I started.
The story jumps through time a lot. With each chapter it seems. In 1991, Darya is 104 and somehow still looks young and vibrant and as though she hasn’t aged a day (a day from what I’m not sure; it’s never fully explained). She lives in the crumbling ruins of one of the imperial palaces and takes to wearing the Tsarina’s old gowns.
Darya is a firm believer that one of the Romanov children, namely Alexei, survived that awful night and she’s hellbent on finding him. A group formed for the purpose of restoring the monarchy has been formed and when they discover a living relative, Darya is brought in to determine whether or not the allegations are true. Darya would know better than anyone: after her parents were killed, the Tsarina offered Darya a place to live and she became the childrens’ nanny.
The main bulk of the book takes place during the final years of Nicholas’s reign. I loved reading the scenes with the family and the imagery of the opulence of the palace and the jewels was stunning. However, those moments were few and far between.
At one point the Tsarina decides to host a salon for Russia’s most renowned artists. There were moments when this sub-plot was enjoyable to read about, but then Darya became involved with one of the artists and while romance would add to the plot, it seemed as though it went nowhere. The man was Jewish; their trysts had to be managed with the utmost secrecy! It should have been exciting, but fell flat for me. I felt more for her lover, particular at the end when Darya learned what became of him.
Rasputin’s prophecy wasn’t revealed until the latter half of the book and suddenly past lives come into play. Up until this point I was on the fence with the story, but when Darya has her flashback to 440BC, I had a hard time remaining interested.
In the end I came out wishing I had liked The Last Romanov far more than I actually did. Even though the settings and descriptions were gorgeous, the paranormal elements were a disappointment surprise.