Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child -- a desperate need at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the court of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day she disappears. (Publisher)
I love a good historical fiction novel and especially one centered on a country or time period I don't know a whole lot about. Russia in 1736 fit the bill. I really enjoyed getting a peek into the Russian royal court and the events that surrounded the years the book spanned, without going too deep into the history. Books like this are great, because they encourage further research, if interested, rather than being a timeline. That's why I like historical fiction.
The pacing was excellent -- moved quickly enough to keep me interested -- but, unfortunately, I really didn't connect with any of the characters. I felt it odd that a secondary character was doing the narrating, rather than Xenia, and though that often works in other books, I feel it created that disconnect here. Dasha definitely was the more rational of the pair, so I guess I do understand why she was the more reliable narrator, however I wanted to feel connected to Xenia and I did not.
The detailing in everything from outfits worn to the settings and levels of excess the court exhibit was fantastic and showed the beauty of Dean's writing. Though I didn't fall in love with the book, I did very much appreciate the beautiful writing and the historical aspects.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. You can find the rest of the tour here.