Title: The Tsarina’s Daughter
Author: Carolly Erickson
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Challenge: A to Z Challenge
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
It is 1989 and Daria Gradov is an elderly grandmother living in the rural West. What neighbors and even her children don’t know, however, is that she is not who she claims to be—the widow of a Russian immigrant of modest means. In actuality she began her life as the Grand Duchess Tatiana, known as Tania to her parents, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.
And so begins the latest entrancing historical entertainment by Carolly Erickson. At its center is young Tania, who lives a life of incomparable luxury in pre-Revolutionary Russia, from the magnificence of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to the family’s private enclave outside the capital. Tania is one of four daughters, and the birth of her younger brother Alexei is both a blessing and a curse. When he is diagnosed with hemophilia and the key to his survival lies in the mysterious power of the illiterate monk Rasputin, it is merely an omen of much worse things to come. Soon war breaks out and revolution sweeps the family from power and into claustrophobic imprisonment in Siberia. Into Tania’s world comes a young soldier whose life she helps to save and who becomes her partner in daring plans to rescue the imperial family from certain death.
I approached Carolly Erickson’s The Tsarina’s Daughter with a bit of trepidation. Though I do enjoy historical fiction, the reviews on Amazon.com were very mixed so I didn’t know what to expect. However, I enjoyed Erickson’s The Last Wife of Henry VII, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
After reading the novel, I have to say that I can see both sides. One one hand, it was a very enjoyable novel. Erickson’s details are great; she really puts the reader in pre-revolutionary Russia. She also develops the major characters very well. Tania is a vivid, strong girl who is curious about her country. She has been protected from the horrors outside the palace. When she is exposed to them, however, it speaks to her compassion and she tries to help those in need. Tania loves her parents, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, but as the novel progresses and Tania matures, she recognizes their weaknesses and faults. I really enjoyed this depiction, as well as the fact that the book was about someone other than Anastasia. Anastasia has gotten most of the attention in fiction and fantasy because her bones were not found with those of her family; however, her remains (and those of her brother Alexei) were recently discovered in a separate grave nearby, putting an end to speculation (and hope) that she may have survived the massacre.
However, The Tsarina’s Daughter leans very heavily on fiction. Most of the events in Tatiana’s life are likely made up. I’m guessing that the more general events are most likely accurate – Rasputin, meetings with cousins from Germany, etc. – but it is likely that everything specific to Tatiana herself was made up. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s historical fiction after all. It is the author’s job to fill in the blanks. I would have appreciated a summary of what was true and what wasn’t, however. Unfortunately, all Erickson tells us is that Tatiana didn’t survive the execution of her family.
Still, I think this The Tsarina’s Daughter was a very enjoyable book that any fan of historical fiction would enjoy. Erickson’s a talented writer and it definitely shows. As long as the reader is aware that the book is mostly fiction, there isn’t any reason that it can’t be appreciated for what it is!
I’ll end with a picture of Grand Duchess Tatiana. She was only 21 when she was killed – so tragic!