Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
on 8 August 2012
What to call this book? At first glance it is a historical fiction - but it isn't - I would call it Historical Fantasy as the book relies a lot on magic in the plot.
It is the story of Darya who, with an opal eye and magical healing powers, is tasked with caring for young Alexei = the Tsarevich at the court of Tsar Nicholas II. It is the story of her years with the court right up until the murder of the Royal Family at Ekaterinberg, which she manages to escape. She then spends the rest of her life searching for Alexei, as she is convinced that he survived the massacre.
The descriptions of court life are full of opulence and splendour, the women are decked in the most fantastic clothing and jewellery imaginable and the food and drink is beyond this world. It really is a life of pleasure for the Royals. Unfortunately, because the book is told through the eyes of Darya, and Darya alone, we never really get a glimpse of the outside world. We are told that the Royal family have enemies amongst the Russian people, but we never really see it. Similarly, we are told about the pogroms against the Jews, but we do not witness it. Everything in the book that happens is related as it directly affects Darya, and unfortunately, for me at any rate, it meant that I did not really feel any sort of connection or empathy with any of the other characters, including the Romanovs. A bit more detail, showing us instead of telling us about the events going on in the outside world, outside the court apartments, would have made the book so much more enjoyable and built up suspense before the murders take place.
The story itself is an OK enough read, but definitely to be taken with an extremely large pinch of salt. For example, right from the beginning it seems that one of the favourite pastimes was hunting Aurochs. Not quite sure what an Auroch is, so with a spot of googling I was surprised to find it was a bison like animal that had been extinct since the 17th century, so maybe a bit more research here would not have gone amiss! There may be more examples of this kind of "error" but I couldn't be bothered to ask Mr Google.