Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 with 17 comments
Title: Tsarina
Author: J. Nelle Patrick (pseudonym for Jackson Pearce)
Series: n/a
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 27, 2014
Source: from publisher for review
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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 not in the right hands.

Ugh. I hate writing reviews like this. It's always easier to write a review for a book that you either had strongly positive or entirely negative feelings toward. I always feel so inept at writing reviews for the ones that are only so-so, that evoke no real emotional response from me. So it goes.

Possibly the problems I had with Tsarina are due in part to some really high expectations I had going into the story. I've only read Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce before, but I liked it well enough to think that I'd enjoy her retelling of the end of the Romanov reign in Russia. I also really like historical fiction and anything involving Russia. And then Wendy loved it, so I thought it was a guaranteed favorite because we often love the same books.

And don't get me wrong...there are aspects of this novel that are absolutely lovely. The prose is gorgeous. The setting is stunning. The magical bits weren't overbearing. And yet it still wasn't enough to make me love the characters. I felt zero connection to them, and as that's usually the aspect that has me falling for a book -- even when the writing isn't superb -- it made it difficult to enjoy this novel to its fullest.

Also, the romance was, um, sketchy? I really liked how the relationship between Natalya and Alexei was portrayed as something so lovely and heartbreaking in so few words. But then the war between the Reds and the nobility of Russia comes to a head and nothing is certain anymore. And I don't like where things in the romantic department left off or where they picked up because of those uncertainties. Sorry I'm being intentionally vague, but it's best I not say anything further for fear of spoilers. I just think things could have been handled a little differently so that it didn't feel like a complete upheaval of feelings. That, or it's possible that my complete lack of connection to Natalya just made it feel more sudden than it was.

I feel like a total black sheep here. I didn't hate the book. But I also didn't love it in the way that I thought I would. I mean, from the outside, this appears to be a total "Jen" book: spectacular cover, historical fiction set in Russia, elements of magic that were -- for the most part -- only hinted at for much of the book. But the first half was a total snooze-fest for me, with much less dialogue than I prefer and two girls running all over the city with no clear goal. And that kind of set the precedent for the rest of the novel for me.

Regardless, I still think this novel will resonate with a lot of readers, especially fans of Pearce's other work because as I said, the writing is still pretty fantastic. And there are a lot of elements that are done well in this story. It just so happens that the ones that I regard highly did not meet my expectations in this case, unfortunately.

GIF it to me straight:
I so badly wanted to love this story, but I was pretty underwhelmed by it.

About 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.

J. Nelle Patrick is a pen name for author Jackson Pearce.

Find J. Nelle:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads


  1. Ugh, I know what you mean! I can't write a lot of reviews myself because I don't have anything to say when I just feel so-so for them. Like, you don't hate it but you don't love it either, and you don't know what exactly to say about it!

    Good review though, and you still managed to get your point across :) Also, this review caught my eye because I also wanted to read it but I wasn't sure.

  2. Oh, you’re very right, writing “so-so” reviews is very difficult… it’s like, you don’t really have anything to say. It’s not amazing, it’s not bad… it’s mediocre. Those are the hardest reviews to write.
    It’s awful you couldn't connect to the characters, Jen! That’s what makes or breaks book for me, too.
    LOL you’re very vague about the romance! now I'm curious what the hell happened there!

    Great review, Jen - too bad the book didn't live to your expectations :(

  3. It is hard to write a review of a book that we don't feel strongly about. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I haven't read anything by this author yet, so I am glad to know that you enjoyed Sisters Red.

    Loved the GIF. :)

  4. I am currently reading this and will come back to comment and also to chat with you about it! So far I'm liking, though I don't love all of Natalya's decisions so far. It's definitely worrisome that you didn't love it more (based on your rating). SPOILER: We only saw Alexei for about five minutes before he disappeared and now his family has been captured, so I'm very curious about how this romance is going to go. Will it shift somewhere else? Will she even see him again?

  5. It is hard to describe something that just doesn't resonate. I like the premise of this book so I still wish to read it, but its good to know that I need to watch my anticipation level. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Aw, I'm sad! I didn't realise Jackson Pearce wrote this! I want to try it just because of Sisters Red...but I'm a tad worried now. It's annoying when you don't connect to the main characters though, right? *sigh*

  7. I totally agree on writing so-so reviews! They aren't horrible, yet they aren't too fantastic either.

    I'm giving this a go anyway since I love books that are Russian-based and the synopsis sounds pretty interesting.

  8. I totally get what you're saying about writing a review on a book you feel so-so about - it's so hard to summarize your feelings when you don' really care all that much.

  9. You know we felt similar about this book...I'm with you with zero connection to the characters. That first 5% was so beautiful I was certain I would love this book to pieces. I'm so sad that neither of us did. Great review Jen!

  10. This review actually comforts me. I mean, yeah, it scared me at first since I highly value your opinion, but it's good to know that if I don't like it, I know I won't be the only one. I hate all the negatives you mentioned and wish you had liked it better though!

  11. Oh boy. I' m reading this one now. I'm about 80% done but I'm liking it so far. I am a little hesitant about the ending though--because it seems like that is the point that upsets people :/ I'm coming back to read this review in full once I finish, Jen:)

  12. This is such a bummer. I've been looking forward to this one for months. I'll still give it a try, of course, but I'll definitely have to dial back my expectations. It's hard to get into a book when you don't connect with the characters. Great review!

  13. I have yet to find a book about the Romanovs that is interesting. How can they all be so blah? There has to be a good one out there somewhere.

  14. when I first saw this book and read the title I immediately thought of pudding. I'm not sure why.

    I think I'll be passing on this one. No one likes a snooze fest.


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