A heart-wrenching, suspenseful look at the downfall of the Russian empire as told through the eyes of the four Romanov sisters.
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand—first headstrong Olga, then Tatiana the tallest, Maria most hopeful for a ring, and Anastasia the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand duchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are young women each on the brink of starting her own life. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together—who link arms and laugh, sisters who share their dreams and worries, and who flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.
But in a gunshot the future changes—for these sisters and for Russia.
As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny—and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood collides with the end of more than they ever imagined.
At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naïve and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of this great empire. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia.
|Publisher:||Atheneum Books for Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Sarah Miller began writing her first novel at 10 years old, and has spent half her life working in libraries and bookstores. She is the author of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller, which was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and nominated for numerous state award lists. Sarah lives in Michigan with her family. Visit her online at sarahmillerbooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Lost Crown
1 August 1917
Our luggage is packed and we’ve said our good-byes. The palace is as dark and still as a museum at midnight, but it’s been hours and the train still isn’t here. No one will tell us when it will come, or where they’re taking us. Even Papa doesn’t know anything. We can only wait in the semicircular hall with Kerensky’s footsteps echoing over the guards’ voices as they whisper.
My sisters and I sit together on a pair of suitcases. If we’ve forgotten to pack anything, it’s already too late—our rooms have all been sealed and photographed. Anyway, Tatiana would say it’s bad luck to return for something you’ve forgotten.
Olga and Tatiana hold hands, and Anastasia dozes against my shoulder. Our younger brother, Aleksei, climbs like a bear cub over the piles of bags and crates. Clutching her rose leaf cushion, Mama follows his every step with her eyes. Papa stands against the wall with one hand on her shoulder. His other hand smoothes his beard over and over again.
Even though it’s been almost five months since the revolution, sometimes I can’t understand how it all happened. I remember Monsieur Gilliard pointing out Russia and all its territories on our classroom map, telling us Papa ruled one-sixth of the world. Now we’re prisoners. Papa says we’re not prisoners, me and my sisters and Aleksei. If we wanted to go, the guards couldn’t stop us. But none of us will ever leave our parents. “We seven,” Mama calls us. No matter what else changes, we will always be we seven.
I can’t even imagine what else is left to change.
Anastasia shifts against me and yawns. “What time is it?”
“Nearly three o’clock,” Tatiana answers.
I screw my eyes shut, nuzzling my shaved head against Anastasia’s shoulder. It can’t be long now, and I want to remember everything, everything before we go….
Imperial yacht Standart
There has never been such a summer! Since sailing from Peterhof, my sisters and I have spent all day on the sunny decks of our dear Standart, playing shuffleboard, roller-skating, dancing, and yes, sometimes flirting with the officers. Of course they kissed our hands when we climbed aboard, but only because we’re the tsar’s daughters. They can’t simply wave hello to a flock of grand duchesses. None of the four of us has had a real kiss, unless one of my sisters has started keeping secrets.
The only dark blot on our trip is Aleksei’s accident. Three days ago our brother bumped his ankle on a rung of the ship’s ladder. Instead of scampering about the decks in his starched sailor suit with his spaniel, the poor darling ended up stranded in bed, the joint twisted and swelling by the minute. Mama’s sent three telegrams to Otets Grigori, hoping the holy man’s prayers will cure our little Sunbeam. In the meantime Anastasia, Tatiana, and I tease our oldest sister, Olga, mercilessly about her matches with Crown Prince Karol of Romania and our cousin David, the prince of Wales. Even the ship’s officers join in.
Clearing her throat, Tatiana straightens up, her hands clasped behind her back. “I am requested by the officers of His Majesty’s yacht Standart to present this card to Her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna,” she announces, handing over an envelope with a little curtsy.
I peek at Anastasia. Something’s up. We never use our titles among one another, and neither do the officers. Anastasia only shrugs, but you never can tell with her. Our impish little sister could very well be behind this.
Olga pulls a card out of the envelope. “Oh!” she says after hardly a glimpse, her hands flying to her hips. “It was you, wasn’t it, Shvybzik?” she demands, shaking the card at Anastasia.
“Not me,” Anastasia insists, batting her eyelashes before she ducks under Olga’s hand and snatches the card away. She glances at it and snorts with laughter. Behind us, the officers chuckle as Anastasia capers about the deck, waving the card like a banner. Tatiana’s dogs, Jemmy and Ortipo, yip and prance along.
“You all are swine!” Olga declares. I catch Anastasia and read over her shoulder.
The joke’s a good one: a cutout newspaper photo of cousin David’s head pasted on to a picture of Michelangelo’s David. I can’t help hooting right along with Anastasia at the sight of our cousin’s face balanced above all that naked marble.
“Oh, Nastya, what a pair they’ll make! Him stark naked and Olga in the fifteen-pound silver nightgown of a grand duchess, just like Auntie Ksenia had to wear on her wedding night!”
“Humpf,” Olga sniffs at me. “You’re just as much a grand duchess as I am, Mashka, and you’ll be fitted for your own fifteen-pound nightgown one of these days. If only we can find someone willing to marry our fat little Bow-Wow!”
“Of course I’ll marry,” I sing out. “I’ll marry a soldier and have dozens of children.”
“And they’ll be prettier than yours, Olga,” Anastasia pipes up, “because her babies will all have Mashka’s big blue saucer-eyes.” I clasp Anastasia around the waist and peck her cheek. She’s a shvybzik, but she knows my dreams as well as I do.
“Fine,” Olga says, “we can set a banquet table with Mashka’s saucers.”
Tatiana bursts out laughing, and the officers applaud Olga.
At the sound of a sob from Aleksei’s rooms belowdecks, the smile leaves Tatiana’s face. Our giggles dissolve in a heartbeat. We all look at one another, thinking the same thing: That time it sounded like Mama. Suddenly somber, the officers shift their eyes to the deck. Tatiana hurries past them all, her skirts fluttering like sails behind her. Olga follows, and Ortipo, too, before Anastasia and I fall into line, hand in hand and a trifle skittish. Stranded at the top of the stairs, Jemmy whines, her little legs too stubby to follow us down the steps.
We find Tatiana with Mama in the passageway outside Aleksei’s cabin. Mama’s face is pale and her cheeks streaked with tears. As we come closer, she leans her head on Tatiana’s shoulder and closes her eyes. Ortipo whines. Beside me, Anastasia stiffens. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
Tatiana puts a finger to her lips and motions us toward Aleksei’s doorway. “Go in,” she whispers. Her eyes flick down to a rumpled telegram in Mama’s hand. “No one has told him.”
Olga nods and steps inside. I take a breath as Anastasia pulls me along behind her. Nagorny, Aleksei’s dyadka, nods, then shuts the door silently behind us. Our brother’s sailor nanny always makes me relax a little. Having Nagorny nearby is like sitting under a birch tree, he’s so tall and steady in his white sailor suit.
Inside the cool, dim cabin, Joy, Aleksei’s spaniel, thumps his tail at us but doesn’t budge from his place beside our brother’s bunk. Only Aleksei’s eyes stand out from the bed-clothes. His face and hands have begun to turn waxy white. Under the sheet, his ankle bulges, already swollen as big as his knee. The pull of the sheet as Olga sits on the edge of the bed makes him wince. A hollow opens in my chest at the sight of him like that.
“How are you, Sunbeam?” I ask, leaning over to kiss his dear little forehead and slip a candy from my pocket under his pillow.
“Better than yesterday,” he says, his voice as small as his face, “but still swelling.”
Still swelling! If I’d knocked my ankle on that ladder, I’d have no more to endure than an ugly bruise and my sisters’ teasing. Poor Aleksei has lain in bed three days, and the blood is still pooling into the joint.
“Where’s Tatiana?” he asks.
Olga and I look uneasily at each other, but Anastasia springs into action.
“Oh, you know the Governess. She’s probably discussing your lessons with Monsieur Gilliard this very minute.” Anastasia stands on her toes and stretches out her neck to make herself as tall as our regal Tatiana. “Monsieur Gilliard,” she says, addressing me with a twinkle in her eyes, “Aleksei is neglecting his studies. Something must be done.”
“But Tatiana Nikolaevna,” I begin, and as I try to bow, Anastasia takes one of Aleksei’s sailor hats from the bed and pushes its long black ribbon against my upper lip to imitate our tutor’s wide mustache. Aleksei blinks with amusement, and Anastasia presses on.
“Really, Monsieur, he has lolled about in bed three days now. It is positively disgraceful.”
“But surely, Your Highness,” I say, bowing again and gesturing to Aleksei’s bed. But I forget to keep hold of my mustache, and the sailor hat topples to the floor. Olga shakes her head and rolls her eyes, but Anastasia keeps up the charade.
“My dear monsieur,” she huffs, “that will be quite enough. I see I have overestimated you. A man who cannot even keep track of his own mustache simply cannot be capable of educating the next tsar of the Russias. You are dismissed!”
I let my head fall to my chest and make my way to the door.
Anastasia yanks the hat from the carpet and holds it out to me, one ribbon pinched between two fingers with her pinkie sticking out a mile. “And take this with you. I will not have discarded mustaches lying about the tsarevich’s bedroom!”
Aleksei smiles, a real smile this time, and bursts into applause. Olga joins in after an instant, while Anastasia and I hold hands and curtsy.
At that very moment, Monsieur Gilliard himself appears in the doorway, his arms full of our brother’s favorite storybooks. Aleksei explodes with laughter, and the pinch of happiness inside my chest splits open like a firecracker. Anastasia turns white for a flash, then grabs me by the arm and pulls me straight under Monsieur’s mustache and into the corridor, slamming the door on our tutor’s bewildered face. Despite Mama’s startled glance and Tatiana’s glare, I can’t help wrapping my arms around my clown of a little sister with a hug that lifts her from her feet. Even though I know something dreadful has happened, for that moment, the only thing I can think of is that I love Anastasia best of all.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book clearly lays out the many events and circumstances surround the last Imperial Family of Russia. It also gives a vivid window into the duchesses lives and how the revolution affected them and their familiiies. It is evident that much research went into this book. Many books about the last Romanov Imperial Family focus on the Tsar, Tsarvich(Aleski), or Anastatia. I was pleased that this book did not "favor" one of its characters. This book is definately worth the read!
I recommend this book to any person who likes historical fiction. It tells the last years of the Romanovs through the eyes of the Tsar's four young daughter. Olga, Tatiana Maria and the famous Anastasia. Even though it is a work of fiction the writer has worked in actual events and letters as well as some of the things they say. Historical fiction can be very hard to write, especially when you include historical figures. I personally thought that more of the family could have been introduced for a change of pace but we really only hear from the seven and at times the Dr. It would have been nice to hear more from the servants that were held captive with them as well but the book is already really long and the absence of such characters does not distract from the quality fiction that it is.
It's hard to rate this book because it's really worth the read. Especially if you have any sort of interest in the last Tsar of Imperial Russia and his family. It's different than other books I've read about them in the sense that it's told from the Dutchesses points of view. And I would think of this as historical fiction at it's purest. You know things are fabricated, but you get the feeling that this could be how they felt about the things happening around them. It read almost like a biography. I really enjoyed many aspects of this novel. While switching between 4 points of view could get confusing at times, Miller manages to give each sister distinct personalities. With each voice, we learn how each sister felt about what was happening around them. I also felt a true sense of family among them. No matter what, they were in it together. I was surprised at how naive they seemed to be about the outside world. They lead extremely sheltered lives. I while it was one of privilege, in many ways it wasn't. It seems the life the people didn't see differed greatly from the ones the commoners did see. What stuck me most of the common thread of hope and trust that each of the sisters shared. I almost wish to know how the Tsar and Empress felt during this time. The sisters took each humiliation in stride with the dignity of royalty. They also felt like eventually the people would see the error of their ways and release them. That above all the common love of Russia would set them free. During all of this they never seemed to behave as if they were in captivity and treated no better than criminals. What was hardest for me about the book, and why I gave it a 3 rating, is that it's long. The longer this book gets, the more you care about the sisters. The more you care, the more depressing it gets. Because no matter what happens, you know how it ends. The Romanov's were all killed. And the way it all plays out, it seems almost cowardly. It's horrific. So, it's really hard to read a novel that you know there is no happy every after. I was pleased that the actual details on the deaths are in an author's note. The actual ending is more of a fade to black. Miller has done her research and it shows. There's lots of details at the end, including some on the theory of Anastasia getting away. There's also information on the 2 graves that have been found which put a rest to the theory. I also loved the included pictures and would love to see a finished copy of this book. An ARC ebook I'm sure does not give this justice!
Mediocre and very limited look at the last few months of the lives of the Romanov family Once upon a time, Russia was ruled by royalty. Like all monarchies, the czar’s word was law, and - like the world over regardless of government type – there were good czars and poor czars. All of them were subject to the problems of their times. Between a world war, a crippling economy, and a growing workers movement, the last czar faced very unique pressures that none of his predecessors had to face. In The Lost Crown, Sarah Miller explores the impact these forces had, not on the czar but on his family. As they struggle to understand how they can go from being a beloved national treasure to enforced imprisonment by the same people, so too do the readers as they get a glimpse of what life was like in those final months before the Russian crown was forever lost. As with any novel utilizing multiple narrators, keeping track of which Grand Duchess is speaking in each scene can prove to be very challenging. There were many a time when the story required flipping to the beginning of the chapter to see which narrator was telling the story. Even though there are differences between each narrator’s voice, the differences are slight when taken as a whole and do not offset the similarities among them, of which there are many. Similarly, Ms. Miller uses the multiple viewpoints in an attempt to present a broader picture of what was occurring in Russia and what was happening to the family. Unfortunately, because the family stayed together, either by choice or by being forced into close quarters, the viewpoints of the girls does not vary all that much. The older daughters have a better grasp on the seriousness of their situation, but other than that, all four are limited in their understanding of the revolution and its total impact on not only Russia but on their family as well. In fact, much of the time, the girls are in a state of disbelief that there is a noticeable decrease in the reverence towards the Czar and his family. Because there is so little difference of opinion or of understanding among the four girls, the use of four narrators does nothing but overcomplicates the story and bogs down the overall narrative. While Ms. Miller does not gloss over the hardships the family faced as the revolution swept across Russia, the complex politics and economics behind the revolution are all but ignored. This lack of backdrop provides some surprising consequences. On the one hand, the lack of background information serves to highlight how sheltered the girls were from the outside world. Yet, without this crucial macro-level information, key elements of the revolution become nothing but a young girl’s rant at the unfairness of the world. Granted, from the girls’ perspective, their rough treatment, their subsequent imprisonment, and ultimate fate are unfair, but there is always another side of the equation and to avoid discussing this with younger readers diminishes the importance of what happened and its future consequences for the world at large. The Lost Crown is definitely meant for younger audiences. While the rest of the world concerns itself with a world war, food shortages, economic hardships, and the like, the Romanov children worry about keeping their brother safe, boys, clothes, and their familial happiness. Theirs is a very isolated and self-centered world, and they remain blissfully ignorant – partially by choice and partially by role – of what is occurring outside the palace walls. Because they are so young, their self-centeredness is understandable because being self-absorbed is a top teen characteristic. Younger readers can and will appreciate their frolicking and obliviousness, but older readers will find their ignorance and self-absorption disconcerting, made all the more tragic by their utter confusion and shock when the outside world begins to impose its will on the family. In The Lost Crown, Ms. Miller attempts to show the world the Russian Revolution from the Romanov perspective. By writing it for young adults and using a narrow, young, and one-sided perspective, she further romanticizes the Romanovs and their fate. There is nothing wrong with that because what happened to the entire family was terrible. Still, one cannot help but feel that an opportunity was lost to help explain the other side, why the peasants revolted as they did and how the revolt was hijacked by others to further their own socialist agenda. Historical fiction is best when one can learn something from it, and the novel fails in this regard. Between this disappointing omission and the confusion wrought by the multiple narrators, the story fails to impress older readers. Even younger readers may find the lack of romantic interest, the nebulous understanding of the circumstances, and the very unhappy ending to be a bit too much for one’s thorough enjoyment of the story. It is a disappointing reaction to a novel that looks gorgeous and has such amazing potential behind it.
Having read books on the Romanovs, I knew how this book would end. But what pleased me the most was the different viewpoints. Most books on the Romanovs focus on Anastasia. I was surprised to hear from the viewpoints of her older sisters. Olga seemed worried about everything, Tatiana wants to take care of everyone, and Maria dreams of marrying a soldier. Even knowing their fate, I still hoped that the girls would be set free. I became attached to them all as I neared the final chapters, sharing their hopes and dreams. Ms. Miller did spectacular work with her research and I would enjoy reading more novels like this. I recommend The Lost Crown to lovers of Russian history.
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!! You don't hear much about the Russian duchesses in world war one, and I felt like I was right there. This book is so heartfelt, and the end oh my gosh I cannot even begin! Everything they endured, and then that! The book was also lovely, because of the facts supporting the book. You can most definitely see that the author Sarah did her research. If you haven't read this book I say it is a must, it really makes you think about what you are thankful for! While also giving you a mini history lesson, and no I don't mean it in the boring way, but in a WONDERFUL way. LOved it. Read it. Change your life. This is that type of book!
This book covers the last few years of the Romanovs through the eyes of the four daughters- Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. The start of World War I and the Bolshevik revolution is seen through their eyes. They are very sheltered as Grand Duchesses. They don't really get to see a lot of the world outside their palaces and vacations together. This changes some as the war goes on, and the girls minister to the troops in a local hospital. Soon however, they are caught up in a revolution that forces their father to abdicate. They are taken to Tobolsk and put under house arrest. Later, as Russia becomes more deeply embroiled in civil war, they are taken to Ekatarinburg where they are murdered. I found it hard to read about these girls know what would happen to them. They come across as very sweet girls who were involved in something much bigger than they were. The point of view switches between each girl throughout the book. Anastasia's sections read as very young. You get a real sense of her personality and joy for life in her sections. There is less difference in the writing of the three older girls, but you still are able to get a sense of their different personalities. Although the author admits she takes some liberties, I didn't mind. It made for a very interesting story. I wanted to be able to change history and let those girls live their lives for much longer. They had so many hopes and aspirations. As they are walking to the basement in the Ekaterinburg, they have no idea this is the end. It was so sad to read. I think that people who enjoy history, especially Russian history, will find this book very interesting. I know I did. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I found it fascinating to read it all from the girls' perspectives. This book is a great way to see history through the eyes of some major participants. Galley provided by publisher for review.
Lately, I have been reading quite a few books that have to deal with war. I am happy that I can read and see different points of views of war. So many people are involved, there are so many stories to tell. This one, with the fours sisters, tells of their time in the war. These sisters, stick by each to other, helping out, even being nurses in the war. Slowly these girls after being sheltered, start to see things differently. They of course were royalty, but I loved that they did not act like it. They get scared and pray a lot. The war is getting worse and everything is changing quickly right in front of their eyes. The storyline switches from point of views a lot, like every chapter. I was a bit confused with the pov changes. Now the way that these four young ladies held the family together is awesome. I loved how they treated everyone with respect even though they weren't treated that way. They show so much strength during the uproar, that it began to change people minds. The profound affect that these ladies had is great to see. This book is a great historical read. The descriptions of war, the love of their family that held them together made me smile.
I thought this book would be much eaiser to comprehend. It was in part russian and not the same rammer