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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

*Psst* Click the picture to find a copy

An epic romance. A historical fiction. The first in a trilogy! The Bronze Horseman had a lot of hype when I decided to pick it up. It's not a quick read by any means, sitting at a little over 700 pages I definitely had to be in the mood to pick this book up. It was next on my shelf and I was tired of not knowing what all the fuss was about, so at the beginning of March I grabbed it off the shelf and dived in. Let's just start by saying I wasn't disappointed.

I'm a history nut. I have a history minor and in order to get that minor I took two Russian history courses in college. My favorite being about 20th Century Russia. When I bought this book I was expecting it to take place during the 19th century or during one of the many revolutions in Russia, but to my pleasant surprise it takes place during WWII and shows some pretty in-depth research on the Siege of Leningrad. Having already learned about the siege, the living conditions of the Russian people and the state of the Soviet Union during WWII, I loved getting another (although fictionalized) perspective. And it's instantly clear how well-researched this book was. 

The story follows a young girl named Tatiana and her struggles during the siege. And within the first few pages Russia declares war on Germany and her life is turned upside down. Within another few pages the male lead, Alexander, enters the picture. This book wastes no time.

I think Paullina Simons did an amazing job at capturing the desperation of the city. I also think she did an amazing job at capturing Tatiana's naïveté throughout the whole book. There is no doubt that she's an amazing writer and why her trilogy has gained so much traction. And while I might be reading into it a bit, it felt like the romance paralleled the siege and the war. Their introduction happens when the war begins, their feelings get stronger as the war builds, and as the blockade continues and seems like it will never end the relationship seems as hopeless as their living situation. The parallels continue, but I don't want to spoil any plot points. I just thought it was a cool storytelling tool (which might not have been on purpose).

My only complaint of this whole story actually lies in the relationship itself. I know, it's an epic romance, but it kind of weirded me out a bit. I think partly Simons was trying to stay factual and in-period, but the overbearing, over-protective male character kind of got to me. More than that Tatiana is built up to be a strong, courageous and resilient character, but kind of let's Alexander walk all over her. I don't know how to say a lot of this without spoilers (Comment below if you want to discuss more). However, I will say that what was probably supposed to be the most romantic part of the book was my least favorite. There were quite a few cute parts and "awww" moments, but the "conflict resolution method" made me a little upset. Basically, I just wish Tatiana would have remained a stronger female character throughout, without so much pandering to Alexander's needs and temper.

It's a great story, especially if you're interested in WWII. We don't learn a lot about what Russia went through in most of our history classes even though we were allies, so I liked continuing that part of my education. I've already ordered the second book, Tatiana and Alexander, and plan to finish the whole trilogy! This one ends on a cliff hanger with a lot of unanswered questions so I can't wait to see where the story leads. Just don't read the descriptions on Amazon because it kind of gives away the mystery...

Any other recommendations? I really want to read City of Thieves by David Benioff, The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (also about the Leningrad Blockade) and Ruska by Edward Rutherfurd.

Love you lots,

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