Review of Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

By: J. Nelle Patrick (AKA Jackson Pearce)
Release Date: February 27th 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: E-ARC via NetGalley

An electronic copy was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

Natalya knows a secret.
A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia’s Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.
But it’s not in the right hands.

My Thoughts:
I was so excited to be able to read an electronic copy of this book. Upon seeing the cover I fell in love and knowing the story was set in Russia, I was more than eager to jump into reading this book. You see, as a child I was enthralled with Russia’s history and Saint Basil’s Cathedral in particular. It is not everyday you run across a book set there and historical Russia at that.

It started out wonderfully, the writing was beautiful, the descriptions easy for me to visualize. I was immediately drawn to Natalya and her affections toward Alexei. I found their interaction to be sweet and looked forward yet dreaded the outcome of their relationship.

Sadly, the story continued and had no more interactions between the two! The atmosphere and characters I was most interested in were largely absent (ok, completely absent) from the rest of the book. I had to adapt to this change and my appreciation of the story never could get back to the level it was in the first 5%.

We follow along with Natalya as she wanders her Russia as it is invaded by the Red Army. Though Natalya’s struggle through an occupied Russia as well as being held captive was full of action and suspense none of it resonated with me to the level I would have preferred.  The writing remained strong for the most part but I had so much difficulty relating or connecting to the characters.

Natalya was extremely likeable to me in the beginning but as the story progressed I felt less inclined towards her. I felt she was never fully developed and I never had a clear feel for her. Her personality flip flopped between pages. At times she pushed herself and was strong then other times she made poor decisions and was the damsel in distress. None of this read as the one character causing her to feel disjointed and incomplete.

This book is based in historical Russia and features real people though many liberties have been taken. Patrick has added some magical elements and upped Alexie’s age (he was 13 when killed). I was fine with these adaptations but felt that she could have taken it even further and delved deeper into the Romanov family and Rasputin. It is evident that Patrick did her research and was able to create a tangible Russia that was easy to visualize for the most part.

I feel that Patrick did an excellent job taking the reader between both sides of the Russian Civil War. She drew the lifestyle of both sides wonderfully and I was able to relate to the struggles of both. I found the book most interesting when it delved into the gap between the royal and the poor and the reasons behind the Red Army’s uprising.

Final Thoughts:
Though the writing and research were strong I was never able to connect with the main character, Natalya. Her character felt disjointed to me and her personality flip flopped too often for my liking. This disconnect left me incapable of ever immersing myself fully into her story and the book itself. Through-out my entire read (past that first 5%) I felt at arm’s length and sadly never cared one way or another about Natalya’s outcome. Given that, I did enjoy the depth Patrick gave to both sides, the White Army as well as the Red.


  1. says

    Aw. I’m sorry you didn’t manage to love this book! Sad face that the book started so good then ended up not so good. Sigh. But I’m glad you read it, though 😀 I’m just waiting for my pre-order to arrive. <3 But aw. I kind of wanted a little romance in this book.. is there none? Probably not. Sigh. Still. I do think I might enjoy this. Probably. Or not. I'm not sure. Will do some peeking when it arrives, hih 😀 Thank you for sharing Kristen. <3

    • says

      I’ll be very curious to see what you think Carina. I’m happy I read it I just wish it could have been love instead of just like. Be sure to let me know your thoughts on it.

  2. says

    Yep. Yes to everything you said. It wasn’t a terrible story, but it could have been so much better, had the main character remained consistent throughout the book. I was really impressed with that first 5%, too! And I missed Alexei. I was like, yay, finally a book where I don’t have to wait till the very end to swoon, and then she up and steals my swoons away. =( Wah.

    • says

      Your last line there, “she up and steals my swoons away” describes perfectly how it felt. I wanted so much more! I’m so sad we didn’t love this.

  3. Pili says

    Sounds like this could have been a much better book, but still managed to be good enough. Great review as usual, Kristen!

  4. says

    Aw what a shame that after such a wonderful start to get you into it that it just went downhill. It’s odd that she would introduce a potential relationship and then cut off the interaction between them, and when a character is not well developed and I can’t form a connection to then it really decreases my enjoyment of the book overall. Especially in this genre. Great review, though!

    • says

      Thanks Giselle! there have been some really positive reviews for this one so I might be the odd one in not connecting to it. I hope if you give it a go you enjoy it. I’m with you…if I can’t connect to the characters it is almost impossible for me to enjoy the book.

  5. says

    Okay, I’m not going to read your review until I read this one! I LOVE the cover and that it’s set in Russia. It’s a nice change from most of the Royal fiction I read set in Italy, France, England etc.

  6. says

    Hmm…it’s a shame the main character wasn’t more fully developed, but at least the author had some strength in writing and clearly depicting both sides of a struggle. What do you think? An author to watch in the future, or not worth it?

    • says

      I wasn’t aware but the author is also known as Jackson Pearce and has written books under that name. I’ve not read them myself but I’ve heard good things. I’m not sure if I’ll read her other work or not.

    • says

      When you read it I want to hear your thoughts. I wished I’d been able to connect better. Really, there wasn’t enough about the egg. Just seemed a lot of really amazing aspects were sort of…ignored.

    • says

      Let us know what you think when you read it. I have seen that some people have really loved it so perhaps it just hit us the wrong way? I wanted to love it so badly.

  7. says

    I was excited about this, but now I’m not so sure! I can see that if I enjoy Alexei and Natalya’s relationship at the start, I’d probably spend the rest of the book waiting for it to return! It’s a shame it doesn’t. I do really like Russian history and culture though, so perhaps that will be enough. Thanks for the helpful review, Kristen! I hope you’re enjoying The Kiss of Deception, by the way. I’m curious about that book. 🙂

    • says

      I am enjoying The Kiss of Deception. Very good and the type of book that calls to me to pick it up at all times. I’m about midway so waiting to see how the second half will be. About Tsarina, the writing was strong esp with the historical aspects. I think some people will have a much easier time connecting and in that case will adore it.

  8. says

    I’m still not sure if I want to read this one. As much as I would love to read a book about Russia, characters are the most important thing for me. If I can’t connect with them the story can be the most awesome one, I would still not like the book, I guess it’ s time to finally read Sisters Red and then I’ll decide 😀

    • says

      Me too, the setting is a large part but I have to have a connection to the characters. The secondary cast was fine I just had so much trouble getting behind the MC.

  9. says

    I had the same troubles with Natalya. I liked her, but there is no character development and I never felt connected to her. But I liked the setting and how the tension is described, with enough time to see both sides of the story 🙂

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