I admire historical fiction that draws from real facts from our history books and presents new theories on events or fills in the gaps history skipped over. S. G. Cardin has written such a book called Across the Fickle Winds of History. Now, with a title and book cover like that, I knew I wanted to read it.
The book focuses on the last years of the Imperial Russian Family known as the Romanovs. Those of you who enjoyed the 1997 animated film called Anastasia will be quite familiar with this story. Although Anastasia was the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II, Cardin focuses on the eldest daughter, Olga.
The story spans from 1913 to 1918 and is told through entries in Olga’s diary. While living in the Winter Palace, Olga and her sisters discover three strangers on the palace property. Though the Romanov girls fear the young strangers might be Bolshevik spies, Olga takes a certain interest in one of them named Paul. Olga is torn between her attraction to Paul and the fact that she could inherit the throne should something happen to her father. Political upheavals in Russia put strain on Olga and Paul’s courtship as her family begins to suffer from stress caused by the mad mystic monk, Rasputin.
Cardin has done a magnificent job of developing Olga into a complex character filled with love and compassion for her father and for Paul. The author’s descriptions are quite beautiful, painting a picture of Russia in a much different light. From the first World War to a grand ball at the palace, Cardin breathes a certain life into her characters and setting that make this short novella quite intense.
In fact, my biggest complaint would be that it is too short (under 200 pages) and leaves a bit of detail up to the readers to go research on their own. I would have enjoyed at least another 200 pages where the author paints more thorough story lines for Olga’s siblings, her parents, or even more back story about Paul.
Though history states their lives ended tragically after the Romanov family was taken captive during the Russian Revolution of 1917, Cardin adds a bit of time travel flare to the end suggesting that not all of the Romanov children might have been killed with the rest of their family. The book ends with a diary entry from Anastasia leaving the reader with a bit of hope for a happier ending, rather than the sad truth we know truly existed for the Romanov dynasty.