Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap
Copyright 2010
Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
Historical Fiction/YA
333 pages
Susanne Dunlap's website

Anastasia is used to being a little bit invisible. Her younger brother, the heir to the throne, is ill and the focus of her parents' attention. The youngest Romanov daughter and Grand Duchess, she has lived a privileged but sheltered life. But, when WWI breaks out and the Bolsheviks threaten her family's 300-year rule, things change dramatically.

During a walk around the palace grounds, Anastasia meets a young guard named Sasha. Throughout the Romanov family's exile in Siberia and the downward spiral of the monarchy, Anastasia grows up while her secret friendship slowly changes from infatuation to true love.

Last year I read Susanne Dunlap's first young adult novel, The Musician's Daughter, and enjoyed it (I did not get around to reviewing -- long story) so I've been looking forward to reading more by the author. The fact that Anastasia's Secret is a book about the legendary Anastasia whom many thought to have escaped from the hideous murder of the Romanovs was a bonus. I've read very little about the Romanovs and the Bolshevik Revolution but I've desired to read more.

I think the author did an amazing job of sticking as close to the facts as humanly possible and I also think the story proposed an excellent "What if?" scenario. Anastasia's Secret is what I'd call a "quiet" book; the pace is fairly slow, for good reason. Careful pacing gives the reader an excellent sense of the timing as the Romanovs' world slowly crumbled. Occasionally, the meetings between Anastasia and Sasha became repetitive and the romance was definitely a bit of a stretch, but I enjoyed the historical setting so much that I wasn't particularly bothered by the implausibility.

There is some explanatory material that rounds the book out very nicely. In the introduction, the author describes the cast of characters, Russian naming and the necessity to limit the cast to certain key characters plus the fictional romantic interest. An epilogue and author's notes detail what happened to the family after the story ended, the most recently unearthed information concerning the Romanovs and why she chose to write about Anastasia.

Anastasia's Secret is a Young Adult novel told in first person, from Anastasia's point of view. In one of the other reviews I've linked to, below, you may note that the author says it's for ages 14 and up. That's because the romance becomes less innocent and a little more graphically described as Anastasia ages.

4/5 - Well researched and vividly imagined, an excellent peek into the final years of the Romanov rule overlaid with a sweet, if implausible, fictional tale of teen romance

The historical information that I gleaned from reading Anastasia's Secret came in very handy, last week, when I read The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister. Nonna Bannister was a Russian whose grandfather was in the Tsar's Imperial Guard. The two books complemented each other surprisingly well and I'm eager to read more about the Romanovs and the Russian experience during WWII.

If you follow me on Twitter you've probably already seen this photo, but I'm such a big fan of wisteria that I thought it was worth sharing on the blog, as well. We've driven around in search of wisteria to photograph twice, this week. Isn't it beautiful?

I thought it fit the purple Anastasia's Secret cover theme well.

Other reviews:

Fantasy Book Critic

Novel Novice

Books at Midnight - I like the way this blogger rated the writing, plot, romance, characters and cover separately.

I received my copy of Anastasia's Secret directly from the author, who chose to bypass the usual route and inscribe the book to me. How cool is that? Thank you, Susanne! I've got another of Susanne Dunlap's books, which I'm really looking forward to reading (and bought with my very own money): Lizst's Kiss.


  1. I'm fascinated with the Romanovs, so the book sounds good to me.

    There you go with another inspiring photo! I've had fun with my new camera, but I have so much to learn about it yet.

  2. I have been waiting for this review. I am going to add it to my amazon wish list. :) My favorite cartoon movie is Anastia. This definitely makes me want to read this book. :)

  3. Kathy,

    This is my first book about the Romanovs, even though I've been fascinated with the story for years. I don't know what took me so long, but I definitely want to read more!

    Thanks! I have a lot of fun with my cameras (my point-and-shoot is really terrific for Fiona and book photos). I hope you're having a blast with yours! I probably ought to spend some time getting to know my camera's functions better, to be honest.


    I'm not even sure I've seen Anastasia -- I might have just seen a portion of it because it sure didn't stick with me. I really enjoyed the book. Last year, Sourcebooks put out a book called Anastasia Dreaming. That one's on my wish list. I definitely want to read more; Anastasia's Secret was a good starting point.

  4. I just started this today. I'm a total sucker for all things Romanov and have been ever since I read Robert K. Massie's "Nicholas and Alexandra" when I was in high school.

    I only skimmed your review quickly enough to see your rating and I'm glad to see you liked it. I'll be back to read thoroughly after I finish the book.

  5. SuziQ,

    I seem to have liked the book better than most, so I hope you enjoy it. You tend to like slightly deeper works than I do and I didn't know much at all about the Romanovs and the Russian Civil War, so it was a learning experience. I think that's the main reason I enjoyed it so much but I do enjoy Susanne Dunlap's writing. :)

  6. i ADORE wisteria!!! I keep begging for some but people here keep saying "Oh, but it can tear your house down" BLAHBLAHBLAH - darn ol negative people.
    I thought you were on a break!!! (thx for your comment on that alphabet mysteries....)
    hugs, Care

  7. Care,

    I don't know about setting it too close to the house, but Wisteria does seem to kill trees. There's an alternative. If your mailbox is at the curb, it makes a nice little plant to go next to a mailbox and it won't grow so tall that the mailman will wonder where that thing went.

    Bloggy-break ended early because I had a few quiet moments to finish my Anastasia's Secret review and then I realized I had another review due on Monday -- so I had to show up to write that one. I may be in and out, like you. This is a really busy time of year.

    You're welcome for the Alphabet comment. :)

  8. I don't know a lot about that period in history, so this sounds great to me. I just jotted down the title so I don't forget. Thanks for the review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  9. Anna,

    Me, either. Either I was sleeping in history class or we skipped over the Russian Revolution, but I don't recall learning anything about it till my adulthood and, even then, not much. I learned a lot from Anastasia's Secret.


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