Friday, March 7, 2014

Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess

Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess is a middle grade historical fiction novel by Carolyn Meyer, and of the Royal Diaries series.

I remember this series from when I was younger. I have quite a few of these – from Cleopatra to Marie Antoinette and more – and they fueled what would be a growing interest in historical fiction centering on these oftentimes heartbreak-stricken royals of the past.

Now they are being reissued in paperback. I’m going to be honest – I liked the prior releases better. The covers were striking, more realistic than this doll-like cover here. Also they were hardcovers with gold painted edges to the pages. They felt special. Now… not so much.

But… back to the book!

At the beginning of Anastasia’s diary here she is thirteen – the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. She is used to her luxurious lifestyle, though she doesn’t appreciate all the lessons and schooling she has to endure.

To enhance her outfits, matching her three sisters and picked out by her mother, she wears diamonds, rubies, and pearls. It’s their norm.

But when WWI begins, tensions between Russia and Germany escalate and cause unrest among the peasants of Russia to grow. They’re hungry. They’re poor. And they’re angry.

This is a fictional chronicle based on history of how Anastasia’s life changes – and turns to tragedy.

I am a huge fan of Carolyn Meyer’s Young Royal series, which is separate from this Royal Diaries series.

Here, I felt a little shortchanged – primarily because it was part of the wrong series, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good. Anastasia is a great introduction to historical fiction to younger girls, and may spark curiosity in them as they did for me back when I was younger. It has lots of details of the finer things in their lives before things went bad.

Yet, the truly fascinating and anguishing stuff doesn’t come until the epilogue. Because of the diary format, we don’t get the whole story. We don’t get to dive into Rasputin, or the behind-the-scenes issues of Tsar Nicholas II.

For me, Anastasia’s understandable ignorance of what is going on, as a young, privileged girl, to cause the heartbreak that is caused makes for a less interesting story. I want it all. A book in the Young Royals series would have been able to do that – and has for characters like Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots, Marie Antoinette and more.

So, excellent way to get young girls started in the genre – but generally disappointing if you want the full impact and story of the downfall of the Romanov’s.

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