Biblioshelf Musings – Romanov

Hi Bibliofriends,

Happy Wednesday, I hope your week is going well.
I’ve always had a fascination with the Romanovs and the mystery of Anastasia. I think my earliest memory of this was when I saw the Bluth/Goldman animated film that was released in 1997. I even had an adorable little Pooka plush toy that I took everywhere! Fast forward to studying the Russian Revolution at school and the mystery about what happened to the Romanovs had me hooked. I was convinced that Anastasia was still alive and hadn’t really died. Diamonds sewn into a corset really did prevent her from death by firing squad and she’d somehow escaped to live out the rest of her life. Obviously these ideas had taken root in my head before Alexei’s and Anastasia’s remains were found in 2007 and it was proven conclusively that they had both died in 1918.

Nadine Brandes’ book, offered me the fictional release that Anastasia never did truly die, mix that with a touch of magic and boy did Romanov deliver!

Book: Romanov by Nadine Brandes
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publication Date: 7th May 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson [Shelflove Crate Exclusive]
Pages: 337
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

‘Not even royal blood can stop bullets.’

Without actually having a part one and part two, the story divides itself into two parts: the first being the family’s move from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg and the second focusing on what happened after the fateful assassination of 16-17 July 1918. We see the tone of the story change from light to dark as history unfolds and Nastya is such a terrific narrator to navigate the reader through this.

‘Impatience was the grim reaper of all victories.’

The true-to-history anecdotes of her pranks and the way she is nicknamed schvibzik (imp) created an idea of such a playful character. In the first part, the reader experiences all of her thoughts and feelings: the friendships and conversations struck up with Bolshevik guards, the childlike way of looking at the situation she was in and the almost naïve innocence that her family was going to be rescued out of their exile by the White Army. The way this contrasts with the second part of the story was really well-balanced. At times it felt like a rite-of-passage and you were watching Anastasia rapidly grow up in the aftermath of events. She was an indomitable force on the page. All of her insecurities, vulnerabilities, grit and determination were laid out for the reader to absorb. I felt that her characterisation was powerful and I don’t know whether it was purely the writing or the interpretation of the narration in my head, but I couldn’t help hear Anastasia talking in Jodie Comer’s accent from the Killing Eve series – the mischievousness between them was also fairly apt.

‘Because I have a story I was meant to live. And not even you can unwrite it.’

The Russian references contained within the novel were clearly laid out and explained without being overbearing. It really helped to build the Romanov’s world inside my head. You can tell Brandes is proud of her links to Russia without it being forced into your face through every paragraph. The spell magic in the story was subtle yet effective enough to balance with the more historical elements of the tale. To make spells and become a spell-master, one must have spell ink to write the spell words. For the caster, the words hover around in the air or melt onto the tongue until they are ready to be used at the perfect moment. I really liked the way the iconic Matryoshka doll also played a role in this story and featured as a nod to its real-life creator.

‘We were always meant to be on opposite sides of a pistol’.

Themes of forgiveness and love feature strongly throughout the story. Nastya’s Papa’s belief that everyone should be forgiven no matter what they have done comes full circle in the end and drives home a poignant message; especially for anyone suffering from any emotional turmoil themselves.

‘As I lay in the grass next to the spell that could rid me of heart pain, I realised that a part of forgiveness was accepting the things someone had done – and the pain that came with that – and moving on with love. Forgiveness was a personal battle that must always be fought in my heart. Daily. And though I was tired of running and surviving and fighting… I wasn’t ready to surrender that battle yet.’

Alexei’s condition also shines a sensitive note on overcoming barriers and living your best life in spite of all the odds stacked against you – fair enough he has access to magic, but the sentiment is still there through his relentless attitude.

‘I saw a bond form – between an old spell master and a young boy who never let his illness hold him back from his dreams and duties.’

All in all, I was tremendously intrigued and fascinated by this book. I bought into the characters. I enjoyed the way the writing flowed, offering enough description and dialogue to keep the plot unfolding and the world building within my head. The way magic was paired with heritage. Russian symbology sprinkled throughout every page. It was rich in detail and history; the author’s note at the end explained exactly what was real and what was stretched which I really respect from a historical fiction writer.

Brandes’ tale was the perfect way to give me the happier ending of this tragic tale that I’d always been longing for.

‘The bond of our hearts… spans miles, memories and time.’

Are you a fellow historical fantasy nerd? Have you read Romanov? Feel free to share your ideas/comments/recommendations in the chat below! 🙂

T xx

Biblioshelf Musings Topic: Fanfiction…friend or foe?

Hi Bibliofriends,

How has your week been going? A slightly different post from me this week all about Fanfiction. Do you love it, hate it or have you yet to try it? I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot since the beginning of September since re-downloading the app and it’s come to my mind that it’s quite a marmite one. I’m intrigued to know your thoughts on whether fanfiction has its place in today’s reading community.

I can’t remember how long it’s been since I first discovered Fanfiction, but I know it must have been at least ten years ago. It all started after the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows –  one of my ultimate book hangovers of all time… to be honest, I’m probably still not over it! I was not ready to part with and say goodbye to a series which had absolutely stolen my heart. When my friend mentioned Fanfiction to me, I initially had no idea what she was talking about until I delved a little deeper onto the internet and discovered the absolute treasure trove that was! Here, all of my Harry Potter continuation dreams came true with community upon community dedicated to writing their own versions of events or creating the world after The Battle of Hogwarts ended but before 19 Years Later had ever happened. I quickly became addicted and read story after story after story.

So why do I find Fanfiction such a marmite topic?

The Loves

  • For a start it’s such a guilty pleasure – it’s almost like sinking into a massive beanbag with a great big duvet, the ultimate comfort read.
  • I can revisit some of my favourite storylines of fictional worlds and get a brand new take on them, which falls just slightly short of reading the book again for the first time. Like all of my fangirling dreams coming true!
  • tenorYou soon start to develop favourite writers, reading communities or “-ships” that you end up gravitating towards.
  • The stories are often updated a chapter at a time and you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for the next one – which can sometimes takes years… #imstillwaiting!
  • Some of our most well-known fantasy series and other books are all said to have begun life as a fanfiction type of story: Throne of Glass, Shadowhunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies …even 50 Shades of Grey. Surely this is where the retelling/fractured fairytale genre comes home to roost?
  • I can read more about my favourite series and even though it’s all unofficial, some of it still feels like reading the next chapter in the actual story – it’s amazing how some of the plotlines that fans have written almost became like a canon of their very own.
  • It’s one way to guarantee that I will resurface from my reading slump!

The Hates

  • There’s only one of my friends who I know indulges in it like me. It isn’t always the biggest conversation starter when you’re talking to the bookish community, especially when people have absolutely no idea what you’re going on about.
  • Sometimes a writer will get your favourite character completely wrong and not how you envisage them at all. This leads to major reader angst! 😂
  • It becomes addictive – quite frankly this month, my little fanfiction addiction has majorly distracted me from my September TBR. I’ve read nothing…but…fanfiction!source.gif
  • Writers may end up abandoning stories that you became strangely invested in and years down the line, you’re no closer to finding out whatever did happen at the end.
  • Even though some stories are novel length, I can’t count them towards my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal!


I’m keen to find out your views about Fanfiction.  Do you read it, love it, hate it, have a secret passion for it? Do you write it or ship it? It has definitely become a little faddish obsession for me from time to time, although the ever-growing TBR pile could do with not being neglected for so long.

What are your thoughts? As always drop me a comment to chat!

T xx

5 Biblioshelf Musings about… Crooked Kingdom

So my February mission was to try and start finishing some series which I was part-way through before every plot from every book I’ve ever read starts bleeding into each other. I read Six of Crows towards the end of 2018 and knew immediately that I wouldn’t be waiting very long before getting my hands on Crooked Kingdom.

I enjoyed this duology much more than the Shadow and Bone trilogy. To me, Bardugo’s writing was really well developed in terms of the clever plot and the characters’ interactions (and as an Ocean’s movie fan I was bound to love a good heist).

With an ending like Crooked Kingdom there is no way that I can keep this review completely spoiler-free so if you haven’t read these books yet then what are you waiting for? Go buy them, read them, then come back so we can talk about this!

Here’s just five of the many things I thought after reading Crooked Kingdom (I can’t promise that some of them won’t sound garbled, rant-ish or fangirly. Sorry, not sorry!):

Domhnall Gleeson would be my dream casting for Sturmhond/Nikolai…

Seriously, does anyone else visualise Domhnall Gleeson as Sturmhond? Now the image is in my head, I can’t unsee it. I think he’d be absolutely perfect for the role. However as this is now a Netflix TV show I’m not really sure he’d be in the frame but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled on the casting news nevertheless. Who would be your dream Crow Club cast? Let me know below!

What is the deal with Kaz and Inej?

This is a ship I am constantly conflicted over. I was so happy at the end of Crooked Kingdom that Inej stays in Ketterdam and Kaz helps to reunite her with her family etc etc, but I can’t really see them as a couple, even though I want them to end up together and be happy – does that make sense? What is this confusion?!

I really like Inej. Her morals, her intuition, her integrity, her ability to blend into darkness or walk on tightropes in the air…this girl has a major coolness factor.

Then I think, what in Ghezen’s name makes her stick with Kaz Brekker?

BUT THEN, I also really like Kaz! He is so clever how he thinks of all of his schemes and plots. I can see how his actions and determination are due to the trauma and sadness in him from his brother’s death. He is a tragic kind of flawed-hero who reminds me in part of Severus Snape (one of my all-time literary heroes) and deserves that happy ending…just rip off the gloves Kaz and tell her how much you love her!!

Is Dunyasha an alien from another planet?

Dunyasha – some exotic ninja-warrior whose only real part in the story is to give Inej a run for her money. So who is she, where does she come from? It’s like she doesn’t fit in the Grishaverse at all. With a moniker such as the White Blade of Ahmrat Jen, this Ravkan assassin who was trained at a Shu monastery (of all places) and believes she’s some sort of Lansov heir…I need more on her! Some kind of novella or back story or something…pretty please? 🙏 Anyone else get this?

From a rushed ending to a proposed book 3?

The build-up in this book felt massive compared to the fast paced nature of Six of Crows. A fair portion of it was character development and setting the scenes for the showdown at the end which I understand, but by the time of the auction it all felt like it was over so quickly. They’re escaping the Church, then Matthias gets shot, then the bad guys go away, then Kaz saves the day, then they all disperse and that’s the end? I wanted just a little…bit…more before I parted ways with characters that I had been made to grow attached to! And now I’m told that there might be a third book but it may not happen until many years down the line…Leigh Bardugo, you are the Corporalki messing with my heartstrings! Good thing we have King of Scars to read whilst we’re waiting! 🙂

Poor, poor Matthias!

I guessed that at least one character might die as it seemed a little too twee that the whole group would come out unscathed, but not Matthias! Are you kidding me? 😱

‘Mattina’ was my favourite Six of Crows couple and to kill him off by a bullet wound to the stomach from a junior Drüskelle rather than in the midst of big action AND when they’re all about ready to ride off into the Ketterdam sunset?! It brought tears to my eyes when he died in Nina’s arms, especially as I thought he’d managed to escape the stupid junior Drüskelle guy. Then I cried again when they said goodbye to him and put him on the barge. #gutted

Someone out there needs to write a fanfiction where Matthias never really dies, he and Nina go to Fjerda, rescue his wolf Trassel and then live happily ever after. Any takers…?

So there we have it; my own rambled musings about this fantastic “duology-rumoured-to-be-a-trilogy”.  I’m really glad the hype surrounding this book swayed me into reading it. I’m now definitely a Grisha fan, not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold back from buying King of Scars. 🙈
As always, drop me a comment below if you want to chat books!

Happy Sunday bookish friends! ☺️ Keep reading!

T xx