Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A New Light: A Book Review on Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

It's been a while since I posted a review but I have a good reason, I think. As a change of pace, this review will go over the entire Anastasia Trilogy by Joy Preble, as a result of the final installment's release this month. That's right. Three book reviews, all in one blog post. Enjoy!***

***Edit Note: I spoke too soon. So hubby dear told me the original post was too long and he just skipped to the end of my review to read my ratings. Needless to say, I felt extremely dismayed. As a result, the reviews are now officially being split into parts. Each will have its rating and the overall trilogy rating will be added at the end of the final installment's review. I've also officially changed the title of this post to reflect the fact that it's only reviewing one book and not the entire trilogy anymore. Live and learn, right?

(And as a sidenote to my  edit note, I do kind of mourn the loss of the original LONG post but while it may have looked pretty, I'm sure it was as difficult to read through to the end as it was for me to write it in the first place.)

Dreaming Anastasia follows Anne Michaelson, whose dreams lately have her seeing life through the eyes of Anastasia Romonov, the youngest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia. Anne's dreams show her that the rumors may be true about Anastasia having managed to survive her family's massacre but unfortunately for Anastasia, she may have ended up with a fate much worse than death. While Anne deals with her dreams on top of her family's grief over a recent loss and her average struggles with college applications, she meets Ethan Kozninsky, a young man who claims that Anne is the key to releasing Anastasia once and for all.

This book was good. The characters were interesting and the plot was strong. Anne had a balance of strength and vulnerability that made her a good lead to follow in the story. Her best friend Tess was stubborn and obnoxious, all which proved a nice change of pace from the way too buddy-buddy BFFs that have appeared in past YA releases. And Ethan provided a change from other romantic interests with the fact that quite simply, despite his character background, he was constantly having to learn from his mistakes which makes this book as much about his journey and character growth as it is about Anne's.

The Big Bad of this book will probably be somewhat questionable if you know the stories that people have created about the last imperial family of Russia. However, it is unique in the sense of what exactly it meant for Anastasia to be the one member to survive her family's fate. As in the fact that it wasn't by accident but for a reason. And in a way it was heartwrenching because for years people have hoped that she may have survived but the fate that she had in this book, and what it meant for the ones that put her there, just made the villain of this book truly despicable for me. That poor girl suffered so much and while in captivity she had to work through the loss of her family knowing that she may have had a hand in dealing them their fate. So WOW to the big bad. Hope you get your just desserts.

In terms of themes, a great service was done in this book with its exploration of family. The book works with issues such as the regret, loss, and joy of being part of a family and takes things one step further by working with the grief and even the betrayal that a person suffers when the connections to family are severed. There are the relationships that are forced by blood, the ones you choose to make with friends and then there are the relationships that no one ever learns about, and they are all seen in this book. The characters of Anne and Anastasia are used as mirror images of each other, showing the similarities between their struggles and how their suffering from heart-wrenching loss links them despite everything else. Their linked stories helped to drive the plot forward until the climax finally pulled everything together.

And one big thing to take note of: this book is in no way meant to be historically accurate. It's just taking the story of the supposed survival of Anastasia and giving a different explanation for what could have happened to her. I don't know if the Russian phrases were translated accurately. I don't know if the folklore mentioned was correct. I just wanted to read a book about Anastasia, whose story has intrigued me since my childhood. So in the end, I got what I wanted.

Back to the writing, the book follows first person narration with alternating chapters from both Anne's and Ethan's perspectives. As an added bonus, the narrative had some added letters from Anastasia, which were meant to have been written during the years of her mysterious captivity. A drawback of this though is that someone had the "creative" idea of using a cursive font which in the end had me struggling to read the text whenever the letters appeared over the course of the story. Major ouch. But I have no complaints about the writing of this book. The writing was tight, the characters arcs made sense and when the book reached its ending I was sufficiently invested enough to mourn the long passage of time it would take for the sequel to be released.

Dreaming Anastasia Rating: 7 Stars.

The book was solid, it had a good plot and believable characters. It suffered from a few first book problems but nothing to make it a bad book for me.

Continue on to the next post to read my review on the sequel Haunted, the second installment in Joy Preble's trilogy.

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