When Grigory Rasputin's body is found in the frozen waters of the Neva, tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna immediately sends for his daughters Masha and Varya in the hopes that they have the same healing powers as their father. Masha, the eldest and most like Rasputin, is asked to take charge of the future tsar Alexei, a young boy who suffers from hemophilia and whose greatest challenge is to live to see the next day. However, Masha and Varya arrive just as the Romanov family have relinquished their titles, are swept away by Bolshevik soldiers and forced into house arrest, leaving them with more than enough time to question their fate. Aware that she does not possess the same healing powers as her father, Masha embarks on a 1001 Nights-esque journey with young Aloysha to distract him from the pain his disease inflicts and the thought that his family will soon meet their end.
I've been fascinated with Russian history as long as I can remember. My hopes to visit this vast landscape have grown stronger with each passing year. When I expressed excitement over TLC Book Tours offering this title, I found a copy in my mailbox a few weeks later. After having just finished John Boyne's (author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) The House of Special Purpose*, another novel taking a look at the tragic lives of the Romanov family, I was completely ready to dive into another title that looked at the same situation from a different light.
While Enchantments is completely fictional, the subject of the thoughts and feelings of the imperial family while prisoners in their own home is interesting. So little is known of their imprisonment (or has been entirely exaggerated since) as much of it was either destroyed by the family or those that opposed their position that Harrison had the opportunity to be really creative. Out of all the historical novels I've read on the subject, Harrison's novel seems the most realistic. Furthermore, Masha's tales for the young tsarevich explore everything from his parent's courtship, to the crowning of his father, to the sexual exploits of Rasputin in the hedonistic city of St. Petersburg. Exploring a budding sexuality, Masha and Aloysha slowly form an unlikely relationship that the audience will root for despite knowing the tragic outcome.
Beautifully detailed prose, the reader is swept up into the world of Russian society and into the freezing landscape of one of the last places the Romanovs would call home. If you enjoy historical fiction, or Russian history, or imaginative prose, Enchantments is the perfect title! My favorite TLC title to date, I will be recommending this one to everyone I know.
*Pub Date: April 2, 2013.
I received a copy of Enchantments from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review of the title.
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