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Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic, and the Power of Dreams" by Joy Preble (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Joy Preble's Website HERE
Order Dreaming Anastasia from Amazon HERE

Introduction: I have been a huge Anastasia fan ever since the animated movie came out in 1997. Truth be told I've watched that movie at least 100 times. Along with my love for the movie I also loved to learn anything about the Romanov family and what happened in Russia at that particular time in history.

When I heard about Dreaming Anastasia I had mixed feelings as to what to expect. Sometimes stories that involve history just don't seem to pull it off, or the author can completely ignore what happened in history and go off on their own. However Joy Preble's YA story was a pleasure to read and it didn't disappoint me at all.

Overview: Anne Michaelson is just like any other 16 year old. She has all the problems and worries that go along with been a teenager. But she has one little difference, sometimes at night she dreams that she is someone else. Anne dreams that she is Anastasia Romanov. She has vivid dreams of the famous evening that destroyed the Romanov family, and sometimes she even dreams of being Anastasia trapped in some cabin in the far off woods. All the history books say that Anastasia is dead, but Anne doesn't seem to believe that.

One day Anne has a chance meeting with a strange young boy who seems to keep a constant eye on her. When their bodies accidentally touch, a spark flies between the two, and the boy, Ethan seems to know that this is the girl he has spent decades looking for. On top of that he knows all about Anne's dreams and has an explanation to them.

Anne finds out that Anastasia wasn't really killed that evening that she dreams about, but instead was magicked away to a small cabin of an evil witch who has vowed to keep her safe until someone with the Romanov blood can free her.

However there are a group of people who used to live over a 100 years ago that seem to want to keep the daughter of the Tsar captive. Only Ethan and Anne can work together to free her.

Dreaming Anastasia, is a historical fiction/fantasy with a romance flare. It stands at 310 pages and shifts from the point of view of Anne, Ethan and some letters written by Anastasia.

Analysis: Although this book is a YA fantasy/romance there is so much more involved. Without having too many expectations I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. When I walked away from reading it I was blown away with the ability that Joy Preble has to make me not only care about the plot line but to also care about the characters.

Dreaming Anastasia opens up with the retelling of an old Russian folk tale about a little girl who was sent away into the woods by her step mother and had to battle an evil witch. It was through the help of her doll that was made for her by her mother that helped save her.

Preble takes this folk tale and uses it as the base of her novel. Anastasia has been magicked away from the world and is being held captive by the evil witch. While this might seem a disaster waiting to happen, Preble thoroughly explained the background to the tale so that when it was referenced throughout the story, readers were able to understand what was going on.

This twist on the retelling of the disappearance of Anastasia was a fresh and unique way to see it. While there have been many novels based off of this, the use of the folk tale was captivating enough to hold teen and adult readers alike. There wasn't a lot of predictability to the story so it always kept readers guessing.

Beyond the use of the folk tale was the ability of Preble to bring to the novel characters that were likable and acted age appropriate. While Anne was a 16 year old girl that was facing problems that a normal 16 year old wouldn't have to face, she did so with a believability to it. Anne would ask questions, stand up for herself, and even at times admit that what she was doing didn't seem the smartest idea and would look for ways out of it. Ethan the other main character, has a lot of background to him, and seemed to be a very developed character.

As mentioned this does have a bit of romance to it. However the characters of Anne and Ethan don't instantly fall in love and know that they are right for each other. Instead it takes plenty of time for the two of them to admit that there might be a romantic spark, and even then they are more focused on the problems at hand then in finding love. An all very realistic approach to this situation.

As with all books there were a few weaknesses of the book.

The first weakness was that of the font choice for the letters from Anastasia. The book was a very fast read for myself but when I'd get to the cursive writing of the letters I found them very difficult to read and often times had to reread them several times to understand what was going on. While it was nice to have these letters in there, I'm not sure if it really added to the story. The difficulty of reading the letters, mixed with the rather random feeling of them made them for a part of the story I could do without.

The second and last weakness if that of the magic system and the brotherhood that used it. While it was explained to readers I felt a sense of vagueness to the magic and why the brotherhood even cast the spell in the first place. It wasn't too much of an issue as far as throwing off the plot line but it was a nagging question in the back of my mind.

Overall I was highly impressed with Joy Preble's debut novel. The believability of the characters and the ability to bring a unique look at a story that has been around forever make Preble a YA author that readers will definitely be hearing more about. I look forward to reading any of her future novels that she may come out with.


Harry Markov said...

I am not fond of Russia, but there is a certain charm connected with the mythology involved in their culture, so it's kind of a like-dislike relationship. Nevertheless I am interested in the difference in representation. So many novels disregarding their genre are settled in the US that even a setting change would be a welcome change.

Cindy said...

I didn't know much of Russian folk lore or any Russian history beyond the whole Anastasia story area of history.

I did feel that it was a very good representation of that part of history and what it would be like to have it 100 years later still unsolved.

Everything in the story came together and made sense when reading which is always good.

It was really a unique way of looking at the story of Anastasia :)

kamagra said...

The "Dreaming Anastasia" adventure is so irresistible that almost all teen readers will enjoy this book.


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