Category Archives: russia

Siege and Storm

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siege and storm

Siege and Storm is the second volume in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. The novel picks up right where Shadow and Bone left off. Alina and Mal are on the run on the True Sea trying to figure out their next move. Unfortunately, “like calls to like.” Alina and Mal are soon captured by the Darkling and his Grisha and forced on the Darkling’s boat. The Darkling has demanded that Mal track the next of Morozova’s amplifiers, Rusalye the ancient ice dragon, to further take control of Aline and magnify her power dual fold. When things seems dire, Alina and Mal are saved by an unlikely ally, a privateer with dubious morals named Stormhond, and his Shu Han crew, Tamar and Tolya. On Sturmhond’s ship, Mal continues to track Rusalye. Determined to save Ravka from the Darkling and his desire to increase and control the Shadow Fold, Alina kills the ancient Rusalye and takes the power for her own. She now has the collar and a new fetter.

After landing, the privateer reveals his true colors, he is the youngest Prince of Ravka. His identity revealed they make their way to the Little Palace, a full circle for Alina, and plan their attack on the Darkling. Unfortunately, Alina can’t stay away from the Darkling for long. She begins to see him in her dreams and waking nightmares, lurking around every corner. The collar at her throat connecting the two.

Much of this second novel is spent trying to build up an army to fight the Darkling, as well as, Alina’s growing need to find the third mysterious amplifier of Morozova to increase her power. Alina is no longer the confused girl of the first novel, unaccustomed to her new power and trying to find her place in the Grisha world. She is now owning her powers to the point of total consumption. She knows she is the one in control and begins to act much more like a leader than a follower. She is controlling her army of Grisha and sets the rules and standards for them.

For me, some of this novel did drag a bit. Though I thought overall it was much better in ways than the first. The second novel continues to follow Alina and you see character growth from every character. There is a lot more at stake in the second novel now that Alina knows where she fits into the grand scheme of things. The ending of this novel was my absolute favorite. I loved the imagery of the fallen idol projecting her own rebirth. There will be much more loss, pain, and glory to come for Alina in Ruin and Rising. 

Stay tuned for the final novel in the Grisha Trilogy. Happy Reading!

Shadow and Bone

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shadow and bone

Ravka has been divided for centuries by what is known as The Fold. The Fold is a land of nightmares and shadows with creatures called volcra, a mix in my mind between a giant raven and a vulture. The Fold was created by a man known as the Black Heretic and has since ruled the way the country is run. Set in a kind of pre-revolutionary Russian state, Shadow and Bone is the first novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

I have to say that I liked this novel a lot. Many of the reviews I’ve seen thus far about this book and the trilogy as a whole have been either loved it or hated it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground for these books. I really like the mix of Russian history in the novel and the folklore. I really enjoyed trying to guess what part of Russia’s history the different characters represented. There’s pre-revolutionary Russia ruled by the autocrats, here the Lanstov’s, a mix of Lenin and Stalin era Russia with the Darkling and his fanatic followers, and a Rasputin type character in the Apparat. It was amazing the way Bardugo was able to blend and mix Russian history and create this fantasy world of Ravka. Not only does she bend and morph Russian history, she takes Russian folklore and creates something new and different. The Grisha and their centuries old powers, not magic exactly but more ingrained in them as a person. They practice what is called the small science, not creating but using what is already in the world to enhance their gifts. Creating magic in this world is soul destroying.

Most of the comments I’ve seen are in regards to the protagonist Alina Starkov, the savior of Ravka. Many think she fails as a heroine but I found her flaws refreshing. She’s a convincing teenage girl, just trying to fit in with those around her. In trying to fit in, she never realizes the power that she possesses. She has a great need to belong and the relationships she forges are for life, especially her relationship with Mal. She was never trained to rule or be a hero and, refreshingly in my mind, doesn’t magically become one once she realizes she has Grisha power. She has to be groomed and trained. So many of the fantasy YA heroes and heroines just magically become so sure of themselves and their powers. I really liked watching Alina grow into her own and second guess herself. She makes mistakes, some devastating, but manages to bounce back. She looks to those around her for guidance and has the foresight to rely on others for their expertise, not just her own. This doesn’t always go well but, again, it’s nice to see a heroine be able to make mistakes and be indecisive.

Shadow and Bone does still follow the typical YA fantasy formula but has enough intrigue, especially with the layers of Russian history, to keep me reading. I can’t wait to see what the next novel in the trilogy has in store for Alina, Mal, and the Darkling.

Stay tuned for the review of Siege and Storm. Happy reading!

The Power of Three

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grisha

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a trilogy. I oscillated between a few different trilogies before I finally settled on The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. There’s been so much hype surrounding these books, both good and bad, that I wanted to find out for myself what has so many people talking about this trilogy. The concept sounds fascinating to me. I love the Russian incorporated themes, and the marketer nailed it with the cover art. From the jacket it sounds like it’s going to follow the YA fantasy formula but I’m ready to be surprised. I’ve been reading different Russian themed books lately so this one should fit right in. I’m excited to see how the author incorporates the Russian culture and folklore into the novels.

Since this is a trilogy, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a post for each novel and then one for the entire trilogy summing up my thoughts as a whole on this work. So stay tuned for some Grisha magic. Happy reading!

Nicholas and Alexandra: The story of the love that ended an empire

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Nicholas and Alexandra: The story of the love that ended an empire

“If there had been no Rasputin, there would have been no Lenin.” This quote from Kerensky really struck me from the beginning of the book. What an incredible what if in history to add to the list, and there are many in this novel alone. Massie did a fantastic job tracing the origins of the Russian Revolution throughout the book and chronicling the Revolutions devastating effects. Now this books is pretty old, published in 1967, so it doesn’t contain any current news about DNA testing on the remains found during the 1990s and 2000s, but it does thoroughly chronicle the history of the Romanov family from Ivan the Terrible all the way to Nicholas II.

The best part of the book for me was how real and relatable Massie made the royal family. Nicholas II was an unprepared Tsar who was never intended to be Tsar in the first place. The death of his elder brother to tuberculosis and the sudden death of his father forced him to take and uphold a position he had never been prepared for. To compound this, his wife Alexandra, or Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, was an overwhelming force on Nicholas and he often deferred to her when he shouldn’t have. Alix’s faith and belief in Holy Men, and her shy reticent nature, were the first big strike against the autocracy in Russia. But viewed through a different lens, Alexandra becomes a concerned mother willing to do anything to protect her son who was born with hemophilia, a genetic disease passed down from Queen Victoria, Alix’s aunt.

Massie, in my opinion, really drives home the point, almost too much at times, that Alexei’s hemophilia brought Rasputin to the palace which was the deadly blow to the autocracy. It was Alexei’s hemophilia that brought Rasputin to the Alexander Palace and, despite disbelief from the doctors there, whatever he did to help Alexei worked. The author suggests that it was part hypnotism and part confidence that Rasputin had himself that he transferred to the Tsarevich to calm the child enough so that his blood could then begin clotting. And seemingly miraculously, Alexei would then begin to get better after Rasputin’s visit causing Alexandra to believe in everything the Holy Man did and said.

Rasputin himself is such an overwhelming interesting character. He charmed nearly everyone he met and even when his lecherous ways got out of control he was able to slip out of bad situations immediately. Nothing ever really stuck to him until the end. While I was reading, Rasputin actually reminded me a lot of Charles Manson, perhaps the Rasputin of modern times. Both were able to establish followings of well educated and wealthy individuals and got them to do basically whatever they wanted. But more than that, each brought about the end of an era, and the end of innocence in their respective places. Rasputin took so much control of Alexandra that when Nicholas left for the front lines to coordinate the army, he left Alexandra in charge who did whatever Rasputin told her to do. Some of his ideas were actually on point but others were just to show his power over the royal. This is when Rasputin’s enemies began to chant that he be executed so that his power of the autocracy could be removed.

The one thing about Rasputin that really struck me was how crazy accurate some of his predictions were. He prophesied that if one of the royal family killed him the Tsar and all of his immediate family would be murdered within two years, and that’s exactly what happened. Perhaps just an accurate guess or could it have been something more? We’ll never know.

The further I got into the novel the more ominous the tone. We all know what happens at the end to the Romanovs but I was still hoping that somehow history could rewrite itself. The thing that shocked me most was the animosity Europe and America showed to the Romanovs. King George V of England refused to rescue the royal family because he didn’t want to become unpopular in the country, as did France. Even Woodrow Wilson was over the moon when the Tsar abdicated. Perhaps if some of the extended family of the Romanovs could have looked beyond themselves the family would have survived, and perhaps not.

For anyone interested in Russian history and the Romanov family I would definitely recommend this book. It was dense at times but always fascinating. Massie kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

The House of Romanov

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The House of Romanov

After some technical difficulties with my aged MacBook, I can finally continue Book Battle 2015! I’m so happy to have my trusty computer companion back with me. We’ve written a lot of papers together. So now that I have it let’s get to the next book in the Battle.

Winter Garden inspired me to change my nonfiction book category pick to Nicholas and Alexandra: The story of the love that ended an empire written by Robert K. Massie, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel about Peter the Great. I’ll be honest, I did already start reading the book since I was experiencing technical difficulties over the last week. And I have to say that so far this novel is utterly compelling. History has always held great interest for me. I was that kid that was glued to the History Channel wanting to take everything in. In particular, the Romanov dynasty and Russia have always fascinated me. I suppose it’s because so little is known about the country as a whole. And the fact that it has spans 11 time zones!

Russia has always been a country that’s veiled in mystery. Not much gets out or goes in. We only know what the country has chosen to release. Not to mention the contentious relationship between the US and Russia. Whenever you watch a US made movie or TV show it seems that the bad guy is always Russian, and, when I was younger, I desperately wanted to know why.

It wasn’t until I did a project in high school about Anastasia that I was totally hooked. The whole story of the Romanovs is almost something only an author could cook up. It doesn’t seem real that an entire dynasty could be toppled in just a little over a decade. Not to mention the whole Anastasia/Anna Anderson mystery. Did she escape or not? Science has proven that she hasn’t but the conspiracy theorist and romantic in me wishes that she had.

Stay tuned to hear about the mystic monk, the royal family shrouded in grief, and the vast country on the brink of revolution. Happy reading!

Winter Garden

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Where do I begin? This book was masterful. The story building in the beginning was a little slow but once that was established the book took off. Told in both the past and the present, the novel describes the relationships and hardships between family members amid the scars of war. The depth of strength, resilience, and compassion in people is amazing. 

 The novel begins with the death of Evan, the Whitson family patriarch and the glue that holds the tenuous bonds of family together. His dying wish is for his two daughters, Meredith the oldest and Nina, to take care of their mother Anya and listen to the fairy tale she has told them since they were children but in full this time. At first both are so overwhelmed by the task of trying to crack their mother’s cold exterior that they just retreat and protect themselves the only way they know how. For Meredith it’s working until everything else becomes and blur, and for Nina it’s running away to hide behind the lens of her camera. But it quickly becomes apparent that both sisters can no longer deny their father’s wish. Nina returns to listen to the fairy tale and prompt her mother to tell her more about her past. It’s through this fairy tale that the sisters learn the truth of their mother’s Russian past and begin to reestablish bonds that were broken by Evan’s death. 

 I won’t give anything away because this is a novel that you must experience first hand. The beauty and the tragedy of it are both heart breaking and breath taking. I honestly cried throughout the last 100 pages of the book. I was so mesmerized by the tale the author was weaving of war torn Leningrad and the reign of Stalin. Russia is a country with so many secrets. There are stories presented in this book that I’ve never heard about or learned in any history class. The deprivation and fear of the Russian people under Stalin was horrifying to read. The most heartbreaking scenes are the ones in Leningrad during WWII where the people had to scrounge for whatever food they could find, even boiling their own wall paper and leather belts. The human spirit and will to survive even the harshest environments is incredible. 

This book really affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate. I think the older we get and the more experiences we have under our belt gives us more emotions to carry with us. The older I get the more emotional I become and perhaps this is the reason. You have a bigger well to draw empathy from than you do as a child.

Rating: 5/5 Go read this book immediately!

Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!