Received: Finished copy from publisher
Released: July 8, 2014
I'm a big fan of historical fiction, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when historical fiction authors make stuff up.
I know, I know, it's fiction, but I still can't stand it.
So I set an especially high bar for a NON-fiction book like The Family Romanov being, you know, historically accurate.
So what do you get with The Family Romanov?
On the positive side, there's the short chapters, easy-breezy writing, and engaging narrative. This book is so very easy to read. I adore the structure of tiny sub-chapters with big descriptive headings (makes it SO easy to say "just one more") and I flew through 68 pages in about a half hour, which is amazing for me because I am a slooooow reader.
Then again, the writing style is also almost offensively dumbed down. I get it, this book is aimed at kids, but last I checked kids are not morons. Even books that are undoubtedly Made For Kids like the Royal Diaries series aren't written with the condescending pat on the head tone used in The Family Romanov.
There's also a surprising lack of historical detail. Sure there's talk about events (kinda, sorta, mostly glossed over), and there's of course a lot of focus on the Romanov family (a little, shallowly), but there's very little to actually make me feel like I'm living in that time period and knowing any of the people. It's all very thinly described, and, again, I know it's aimed at kids, but, again, Kristiana Gregory didn't let that stop her.
And then there's the bias. Historical fiction for sure comes with bias because they're usually written as first person narratives. Non-fiction, on the other hand, is supposed to provide a more objective, unemotional recounting of Facts.
Non-fiction books like The Family Romanov, which covers both the royal family and the citizens of Russia, are supposed to be the ultimate in providing facts and perspectives from all sides of a situation.
"Supposed to" being the key words there. The majority of historical fiction books I've read, including all those very emotional first person narratives, have more of an unbiased approach than The Family Romanov.
Combine the heavy bias with the "children must be imbeciles" approach and The Family Romanov reads like one big bash fest on the Baddies and love fest for the pure, innocent Goodies. Anyone even remotely familiar with the Russian Revolution knows that's not quite the case and there's a lot more depth to the conflict than a simplistic Good Guys versus Bad Guys.
Which brings me to the next travesty: historical inaccuracy.
Yes, you read that right.
The oversimplification and heavy bias resulted in a narrative that left out huge, gigantic, very important pieces of information, which totally skews a reader's understanding of the time (even things as basic as fleas!). Now, technically, what's written isn't false, but it's pretty much like lying by omission.
Readers hoping to use The Family Romanov as their first substantive look into the Russian Revolution (you know, the targeted audience for this book) will come away with a really warped, inaccurate, and swiss-cheesy interpretation of events.
Not only pass, but auto-banning this author.