Anastasia Book Review
Updated: Feb 26
Retellings are one of my favorite types of stories, especially in winter. One of my favorite wintery tales is the myth of the lost Romanov princess Anastasia—particularly the animated Don Bluth film. So when I saw the artwork for Sophie Lark's new Kindle Unlimited retelling, I was immediately drawn in.
Genre: Historical Romance / Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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Rating: 3/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 3/5 stars
Anastasia reimagines the legend of the Romanov princess and the evil sorcerer Rasputin as her country is torn asunder by political strife, wars, and villainous schemes. Lark obviously did her research on the Romanovs and World War before weaving in her imagination and magic system to create a dark yet hopeful retelling.
That said, this is a long story with little action in the first half or so. If you prefer action to political intrigue and budding romance, the length and pacing might drive you mad. The beginning is good, and there are a few interesting plot points and twists, but I stayed bored and didn't get excited until the Romanovs were betrayed and the action started.
By the end, I understood how many of the minor encounters mattered to Anya's journey. Yet the book could have been just as good, if not better, with a shorter page count. I don't think it required over 800 pages to tell this story.
While I'm on the topic of editing, I also found several typos and editing errors that interrupted the flow of the story. It wasn't unbearable, but it pulled me out of the book.
On a lighter note, gorgeous, vividly-colored illustrations reminiscent of the classic animated film accompany the story. Song titles and a music emoji cropped up at the beginning of key scenes, which readers will either love or hate.
There are plenty of minor characters between Anastasia's family, royal servants, the Cossack tribe, and random people Anastasia crosses paths with. To keep things brief, I'll say they were all developed and believable enough. But the story mostly focuses on Anastasia and her love interest, Damien—a Cossack boy who despises the royal family even before his forced proximity to them.
Anastasia is wild, carefree, and stubborn. As the fourth daughter, she cannot resist a challenge, nor can she allow anyone to one-up or doubt her. This gets her into a bit of trouble, which Damien appreciates. On the other hand, her privileged upbringing causes her to be naïve to the ways of the world and the lives of common people.
As a commoner from the countryside whose people fight constantly for independence, Damien sees the systemic issues. He calls Anya and her family out often, causing them to butt heads regularly. His heritage, prickly nature, and disdain for the elite make him a target for privileged bullies. He also faces hardship due to his unique and deadly power. While incredibly useful on the battlefield, it brings him loss, sorrow, and loneliness. So it was nice to see Anya's determination to be friends with him, and see how her love impacts him.
Damien also has a hand in Anastasia's transformation. After Rasputin's betrayal leaves her alone, Anya comes face-to-face with her people's hardships, as well as how differently Damien's people live, and finds that his criticism is well-deserved.
Their relationship has cute moments, but I never felt attached to or invested in them. I can't put my finger on why; I typically love opposites-attract pairings, and they were decent characters with good arcs. Maybe they needed more angst? Or to be fleshed out better, despite the story's length?
What makes this story stand out from other versions is Lark's magic system. Rasputin isn't the only one with abilities—in fact, magic is fairly common. Anastasia and Damien have rare types of magic that grant them a level of badassery. Other characters have neat powers with interesting impacts on the story. That said, the magic system itself is under-developed.
Otherwise, I think Lark did a decent job worldbuilding. It was easy to imagine the settings, and I liked the Cossack settlements.
Anastasia has its strengths, but it could have been better with editing, bulk reduction, a stronger magic system, and a better romance. Anya and Damien have a cute opposites-attract relationship, but I didn't fall in love with them. I felt bored for much of the book and wanted to DNF it, but bursts of brilliant writing and intriguing twists helped me power through. The most beautiful aspect of this book are the many vibrant drawings throughout.
If you're a fan of historical fiction with a side of fantasy, political intrigue, opposites-attract romance, Russian culture, and/or folklore retellings, you might enjoy this novel. However, if you're not into plots with little action, or can't stand editing issues or music cues in the prose, this one might not be for you.