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"Romance, adventure, magic and history blend seamlessly into a story that is... historically sensitive and gloriously thrilling." —Kirkus, starred review

Natalya knows a secret. 

A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.
It ...

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"Romance, adventure, magic and history blend seamlessly into a story that is... historically sensitive and gloriously thrilling." —Kirkus, starred review

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 in the wrong hands.

An epic romance with glittering magical elements, TSARINA is swirling with beautiful prose, stark Russian contrasts, and lavish visuals perfect for fans of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Q&A between J. Nelle Patrick and Natalie Standiford, author of The Boy on the Bridge

Q—Standiford: Where did your interest in Imperial Russia come from? Can you trace it back to a particular moment or source?
A—Patrick: This is super cheesy, but my interest in Imperial Russia actually goes back to these plates my parents had hanging on the wall when I was growing up. There were a set of six, and they were the fancy sort of plates that weren’t actually meant to be used for food. I’m sure they were bought at a nondescript department store or the like. Each plate had a picture of one of the Faberge eggs on the front and then, when you turned it over, there was a picture of the “surprise” that each egg contained— the jade rabbit, the little elephant, the portraits of the royal family, things like that. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I recognized them as a very symbolic part of Imperial Russia and, in some ways, its downfall.
Q—Standiford: How did you learn so much about Russian history? What did you do to research Tsarina?

A—Patrick: I knew the basics before I began TSARINA, but felt I needed a lot more than basics to pull the book off. I basically did a crash course in all things Russia. I listened to lectures, I read books and firsthand accounts, went to museum exhibits— everything! One incredibly helpful resource was eBay, oddly enough— it’s full of antique store catalogs, and there’s no better way to get a feel for what people were wearing or buying than actually seeing what was available in stores during that time period.
Q—Standiford: Did you have to change any facts about Russian history to fit your story? Was it a challenge to turn real historical figures into fictional characters?

A—Patrick: I did end up changing quite a few historical facts— primarily the timeline of the story. I combined the February and October revolutions into one revolution that takes place toward the end of the fall. I also aged Alexei Romanov up— sort of. Alexei was only 13 when he was executed alongside his family; for him to be a viable romantic interest, I needed him to seem older. I never say in the book that he’s older, and think it’s very likely that Alexei was much more mature than your average 13 year old given his upbringing, but he certainly reads more like someone that’s around 17. I kept a very detailed list of all the historical deviances I made, and mention them in an author’s note—I wanted to make sure readers knew that I’d done my research and recognized the deviations, but also that they knew there was a whole big world of Imperial Russia out there for them to explore, and my book is only about a tiny corner of it.

The biggest challenge as far as turning historical figures into fictional characters was making sure I remained respectful. For example— it would have been very easy for me to just directly say that Alexei was 17 in TSARINA, but I never quite went that far, since it seemed cruel to officially turn a boy who never made it past 13 into a 17 year old for the sake of my story. Similarly, I tried to make sure I fairly represented the good and bad of the Reds, the Whites, the Romanovs— even Rasputin.
Q—Standiford: Your previous books are based on fairy tales, and this one on history. Were there differences in the experience of writing them because of that? (In a way, the history of Tsarist Russia feels like a fairy tale, so the transition makes sense to me, but I'm curious how it felt to you.)
A—Patrick: You know, you’re right— Imperial Russia was very much like a fairy tale, so in that sense it really was quite easy. What complicated things was the fact that in fairytales, the villain is usually an evil-to-the-core monster. The wolf, the jealous witch, the spoiled king— they have no redemptive qualities, and they’re motivated by selfishness. The Russian Revolution, however, didn’t really have such a clear villain; everyone involved seemed to truly think they were doing what was best for the country. I often got really angry while writing this book, honestly, because I felt like there were so many instances where things could have been sorted out if each side stopped seeing the other as the enemy, and started working on a compromise.
Q—Standiford: I worked on my book, set like yours during a Russian winter, at the beach in July. There were moments when it just felt wrong. You live in Atlanta. Did you have similar trouble with climate schizophrenia?
A—Patrick: Fortunately, I was writing this book in December, so at least it was cold— though, of course, Russian summers are sometimes colder than Atlanta winters! I actually had a degree of culture schizophrenia though. I’d take a break and grab a peanut butter sandwich, but feel like I should have been eating borscht.
Q—Standiford: How badly did you want to wear those imperial ball gowns?
A—Patrick: Man, weren’t they amazing? What I found so incredibly beautiful about them is that they so often called back to traditional Russia. No offense to western European countries, but early 20th century style there seems to blend seamlessly from country to country. Russia was certainly heavily inspired by French fashion (especially in day to day wear), but they kept the long sleeves, the jewel tone palettes, the embroidery and the fur that just screamed RUSSIA! in the very best way.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Patrick (a pseudonym for writer Jackson Pearce) remarks in an author’s note, the Russian Revolution doesn’t need fictionalization to be fascinating. Still, she plays fast and loose with the facts in her hybrid historical/fantasy novel about 16-year-old noblewoman Natalya Kutepova during the turbulent months of 1917. Patrick merges the February and October revolutions into a few autumn weeks; turns Alexei Romanov into Natalya’s 16-year-old longtime love interest, cured of hemophilia by a magical Faberge egg (he was actually executed at 13); and makes Rasputin’s daughter Maria queen of the Russian mystics. The result is a fast-paced adventure—with the requisite romantic undercurrents—as Natalya and her countess friend, fleeing the violence of St. Petersburg, are kidnapped by a passionate young Red who knows Natalya can lead him to the powerful egg. Undergoing an avalanche of obstacles, the trio builds a curious bond that pulls them closer even as their political beliefs push them apart. Climaxing in a mystical struggle for the magical object, the book’s murky finish confirms Natalya’s deep love for Russia but casts some confusion as to her future. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Natalya Kutepova and Alexei Romanov are in love, and though she is not of royal blood, everyone expects that Tsar Nicholas II will allow them to be married. Alexei reveals to her a magical secret: before Rasputin was murdered, he poured all of his power into a Fabergé creation known as the Constellation Egg. The power of this egg miraculously protects the Romanov family, including healing Alexei from his hemophilia. But the egg is unable to protect the royal family from revolution: the year is 1917, and a civil war is on the horizon. Alexei and his family are taken by the Reds. In an attempt to reclaim power for Russia, Natalya and her highborn friend Emilia try to retrieve the egg, but they are deceived and captured. What ensues is a desperate search for the egg in order to claim the power for either the White or Red faction-but there is a dangerous third group at play that cares nothing for politics and everything for power. The characters in this novel don't quite live up to the clearly well-researched historical detail: they're flat and under-nuanced. The two romances in this book are presented as deriving from Natalya's genuine affection for both Alexei and a young revolutionary named Leo, but neither are well developed enough to address the complicated feelings that would likely arise when one begins to have feelings for the enemy of one's true love. The story is fascinating, however, and the details of the Russian Revolution that are included might inspire students to research Russian history and such characters as Alexei Romanov and Grigori Rasputin.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-23
A Russian countess, Natalya Kutepov passionately fights the Red revolutionaries in an attempt to save her country, her heart and a precious Fabergé egg. When their gentle world is turned upside down one cold night by a mob on a rampage, Natalya and her friend, Emilia, try to flee St. Petersburg for the safety of Paris. They are thwarted by a young Red named Leo, who tries to use them as a way to get to the powerful Constellation Egg. Given magic, mystical powers by Rasputin before he died, it keeps the royal Romanov family in power and protects those they love. Beloved of the tsarevitch, Natalya has a personal investment in the egg, and to protect it, she taps into internal reservoirs of strength and cunning she's never been required to access before. Caught in the frozen landscape of Russia during the revolution, the three young adults embody the hope, terror, conviction and patriotism seething in the warring crowds that surround them. Eventually, Natalya comes to understand the deeply personal reverberations of the revolution: "[T]he rioters in St. Petersburg weren't Leo any more than the nobles who fled the country early on were me." Patrick treats her heavy subject with welcoming, graceful prose. Romance, adventure, magic and history blend seamlessly into a story that is not just historically sensitive and gloriously thrilling--it's essential moral reading. (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595146939
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Publication date: 2/27/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 182,209
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Nelle Patrick lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a slightly cross-eyed cat and a lot of secondhand furniture. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English and a minor in philosophy. She auditioned for the circus once but didn’t make it. She is also the author of a series of retold fairytales.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 27, 2014

    This book was so gorgeous, I imagine the imagery will live in my

    This book was so gorgeous, I imagine the imagery will live in my head for a long, long time. Though obviously factual details were modified for the purposes of creating fiction - and a beautiful romance between the narrator and an implicitly slightly-aged-up Alexei Romanov - it was an interesting look at both sides of the revolution and into the Romanov family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 1, 2014

    When I was younger and became a voracious reader all on my own,

    When I was younger and became a voracious reader all on my own, it was historical fiction which captured my attention. One book in particular was Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess from The Royal Diaries collection. And then I went through a phase where I read every book about Anastasia Romanov that I could get my hands on!

    I was thrilled when I first heard about Tsarina's upcoming release. As I read it, I was incredibly pleased with the story Jackson Pearce (under the pen name J. Nelle Patrick) created for a fascinating historical character and event.

    Reasons to Read:

    1. Writing with rich details:

    Jackson's writing in Tsarina is STELLAR. I'm wary of books bogged down in too much detail, but there is a perfect balance here which painted a breathtaking picture in my mind for the setting. The storytelling in Tsarina completely swept me away!

    2. The sweetest love story:

    It was interesting starting the book with the romance already intact - so many stories explore the build up to a relationship, but Natalya and Alexei are already together and looking to the future. This adds such a different perspective from other YA books, plus the love story is kind of the grounding element for this book. This provides Natalya's motivation for most of the book. And yet, it's so difficult watching it all unfold!

    3. A magical, historical re-imagining:

    Historical fiction always takes some artistic liberties with filling in some knowledge gaps or changing certain details - but I hesitate to call Tsarina true historical fiction. It does follow a very important period in Russia's history, however it truly felt to me more like a fanciful re-imagining of this event rather than true historical fiction. 

    The only thing I didn't love about Tsarina was the ending - it felt like such a stretch to me after reading through the whole book. I just wasn't happy with the closure we were given! Partially because it isn't what I wanted but the rest of the story didn't convince me that this is how the characters would respond to the situation they were put in. 

    But this is a perfect read for those looking for a swoonworthy, heart-wrenching love story and a little bit of magic in a tragic time. It's a story many of us are familiar with, but with its own unique twist. 

    ARC received from Penguin Canada for review; no other compensation was received. 

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  • Posted April 25, 2014

    Enjoyable, some historical points

    easy reading

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