Monday, 14 August 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Guest Blog Post The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin (Young Adult, Historical, 10E/10E)

10th August 2017, Corgi Children's, 400 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Content: includes a bit of violence and unrest, lots of danger

Summary from Penguin
Russia, 1916. 

Nina Ivanovna’s world is in turmoil. Her only hope is to travel to St Petersburg, to escape the past and find a future.

Stefan Kolodin is a medical student – young and idealistic, he wants change for Russia and its people.
Amidst the chaos of a city in revolt, their lives collide. And a stormy relationship develops . . . full of passion and politics.

But soon Nina is drawn in to the glamorous, lavish lives of the Russian royal family – where she begins to fall under the spell of their mysterious monk, Grigory Rasputin. The ruby-studded dagger he carries – beautiful and deadly – could save her and Stefan from a cursed life
. . . or condemn them to it.

Nayu's thoughts
It's a real pleasure to be the first stop on Theresa's blog tour for The Rasptin Dagger - be sure to check out the other stops! 

So I'm a bit biased because I've enjoyed some of Theresa's other books, and jumped at the chance to review this because I like the romantic but not in the love type of romantic notion that Princess Anastasia survived the horrific end to the Romanovs. Before you yell at me for spoiling the book, I haven't. I'm simply stating history, that the Russian royal family were murdered. For a time there was hope that at least one princess, Anastasia, somehow survived, and I think there were imposters for her, but, unlike both the Disney version and my romantic notion sadly that wasn't true. Nonetheless I love to pretend she did somehow survive, which is why I love the last few Romanovs and said yes to review this tale. 

I found this picture of them in cute sailing outfits online. I'm happy believing they are all together now, happy and safe in the next life, though not with Rasputin.
Admittedly I received the book on a day when I wanted a happier read, so I said to myself I'd read alternate chapters of this and a hilarious book. Didn't read a single chapter of the guaranteed funny book until I'd finished this one. Theresa has woven her magic again! Everything felt so real (probably because some of it was). Rather than keeping Nina away from the royal children, Theresa finds an ingenious way of letting her be in the thick of it-she gets to live with them! I was so happy when that happened, I enjoyed getting to know the sisters better, and love their special language which gets used until the end of the book. I love how genuinely they needed their ill brother to be happy, although their mother's obsession with Rasputin was annoying, more so because I know that was true. 

The mystery of the daggers was intriguing, although part of me wanted them  figure more prominently at the end (saving Anastasia and her sisters from their fate)-but sadly that's not what the dagger is for. I was minorly annoyed there wasn't an epilogue, because of how the story ends, so maybe Theresa will do a sequel (no matter how short) as I want to know more about Nina! She makes firm friends with unlikely characters, she knows her mind, she is compassionate and loves helping others (most of the time, she has a few selfish moments). Her love of life overtakes the darker elements of the story which I wasn't keen on but managed to get through. I thoroughly enjoyed learning what life was like at this point in history, how hard it was but how resiliant the women could be (those who Nina lives with, not a certain royal queen). Be sure to add this to your book collection-its now on reread shelf!  

Find out more on Theresa's website

Suggested read
 Check out all of Theresa's books including the first one I ever read, The Nostradamus Prophecy, by Theresa Breslin (Young Adult, 10E/10E

The role of Russian Folk Tales in The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin

I grew up in a house which was overflowing with books. 

            Many of these were collections of Folk and Fairy Tales; magical and mysterious stories from many lands. I imagined myself as a brave adventurer battling my way through thick forests, meeting talking animals, answering riddles and overcoming all obstacles in my path. Traditional Tales are perennially popular and have enormous power. They reflect our deepest fears but also our hopes and aspirations. They also show that actions have consequences, and it seemed a natural step for me to weave Russian Folklore into my latest historical novel The Rasputin Dagger. 

            The Bear features frequently in Russian folklore: e.g. The Bear and the Old Man’s Daughter: The Bear, the Dog, and the Cat, but the most popular tale is that of Masha and the Bear.
 Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Russia Wooden toy bear: ©Scarpa

            The Rasputin Dagger is set in St Petersburg and Siberia between 1916 -1918, before, during, and after the Russian Revolution, ending with the murder of the Tsar and his family. Nina, the daughter of a Storyteller, meets Stefan, a medical student, in the midst of a city in revolt. Their lives collide and a stormy relationship develops, full of passion and dangerous politics. But then Nina becomes entangled in the lives of the Romanovs and of the strange and threatening faith-healer Grigory Rasputin. To comfort the Tsar’s son, Alexei (who suffers from haemophilia) Nina tells him a version of Masha and the Bear.  

            Einstein is credited with saying: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”

            Although a young boy and often in pain, Alexei is aware of layers in the story. Towards the end of The Rasputin Dagger when Nina visits - and is trapped with - the doomed family, she comforts Alexei by telling him another tale of the Masha and Bear. As they await their terrible fate Alexei asks her about the hidden truths of folk tales... and the significance of the Bear.                          The story within the story giving insight into the landscape, the history, the people, and the heart of Russia. 
            I hope you enjoy reading The Rasputin Dagger and I’d love to hear back from anyone interested in folk and fairy tales.

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