41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
This extremely well written novel reads like a true life adventure story. It's a tale of the murder of the Russian imperial family in 1918 in their place of exile in Siberia, told by one of the people who was present at the time. The plot ranges from revolutionary times up to the present day, and involves a deep, dark mystery: why were two of the bodies never discovered? The reader is quickly drawn into the story, and the writing is such that, even though you know the terrible fate which awaits the last Tsar and his family, you keep hoping the ending will be different. There are a few twists at the end, which brings the tale to a bittersweet conclusion. Highly entertaining and sobering reading, and I recommend it very much!
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2003
I found this book while browsing the net and couldn't wait for the day it arrived in my mailbox. I had to discontinue the novel I was working on, as I couldn't wait a moment longer to start this book. It was everything plus more that I hoped it would be. It puts you inside the book and is like a steam engine going until the explosion of an ending. The amazon[.com] review does no justice to this book. It is by far the best book I have read in years. Even days after I read it, I am still thinking of all the characters as if they are long lost family members. It transported me into Russia 1918 during the bolshevik revolution and hasn't let me out since!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2005
Even though this is a fiction book, it is very detailed and at times I actually believed it could have happened. This is the story of the Romanov imprisonment in Siberia after the fall of their reign. It is told from the point of view of the Kitchen boy who saw it all. The ending has a unexpected twist. This book is meticuoulsly researched and detailed and is a great historical novel! If you are interested in the Romanovs or just love historical novels, this is for you!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2003
This novel takes real history and blends it almost seamlessly with creative fiction, treating the family with fairness and respect in the process. Some of the non-historical premises are not terribly believable if you know the real facts involved, and the story sometimes sinks into overdrama, but that doesn't detract from the fun. Reality aside, the story works.
If you consider yourself in love with Nicholas II's family, you'll probably very much enjoy it. If you like historical fantasy, you may enjoy it. If you are wedded to reality at all costs, you will probably be bothered.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The best historical fiction is based on facts and the fictional parts are plausible. This book has all of that and is very well written. It is based on the last days of the last Tsar of all the Russians. After hundreds of years of being in absolute power, the last Romanov ruler had been deposed and is being held under house arrest by the Bolsheviks. Leonka, the kitchen boy in the house, who waits on the royal family, is supposedly telling the story and they become mutual friends in their last days. He describes their mannerisms, speech and approach to life in a way that is consistent with all of the historical record surrounding these tragic figures.
The Red revolution is under siege, and the city where the Romanovs are being held is about to fall to the White counterrevolutionaries. Therefore, the Reds have decided to kill the royal family and completely destroy their bodies. That way nothing will be left that could be used in the construction of a shrine to their memory. When the time comes for the execution, Leonka is sent away, but he knows what is happening and he follows the truck carrying their bodies. One of the Tsar's daughters falls off the truck and is still alive. He pulls her to safety and gives her aid.
However, throughout the tale, there is always an undercurrent of falsehood, and you are constantly wondering what really happened. In the end, all is revealed and it was not what I thought it was. Alexander has crafted a superb tale with an unexpected ending. I strongly recommend this book as it presents Tsar Nicholas and his family as they were and the Red revolution as it was and is captivatingly written.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2006
A dedicated fan of the Romanovs may find this book worth reading for its faithful recreation of the family's last days. As a novel, however, the book is seriously flawed. The story-within-a-story format is clumsily handled - the narrator goes off on long tirades about things that don't advance the plot at all, and spouts some tiresome (and cliched) opinions about the downfall of the Romanovs. Everything that happens after the murder of the family is completely unbelievable. It's like the author was trying to show off how torturous a plot he was able to dream up, without understanding that plots have to be character-driven. The character of Kate, on whose behalf the story is being told, is a thin and unconvincing one. This would have been a much better book if it had been done as a simple, fictionalized account of the Romanov murders without trying to turn it into a suspense novel. I give it 2 stars for atmosphere.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2003
I loved this book. It combines the best of the historical novel, non-fiction and the suspense story - I couldn't put it down. Alexander clearly has a masterful grasp of Russian history, and he is able to make the reader care about the destiny of the last Tsar and his family, without in any way apologizing for the grave mistakes they made. This is one of those books that broadens your horizons and that you think about for a long time after finishing it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2003
What if . . .? What if . . . one of the witnesses to the brutal murders of the Romonov family were still alive today? What would he tell us? Would he describe to us the horrors of that fateful, fearful night in 1918 when the Romonovs and their attendants were taken to the basement of the "House of Special Purpose" and executed? Would he reveal to us what became of the Romonov jewels---jewels worth hundreds of millions of dollars? Would he explain to us why the bodies of two of the Tsar's children were missing from the hidden mass grave in which the executed were buried and lay until they were discovered in 1991? What if . . .?
1918, The House of Special Purpose
It is here that the Romonov family and their attendants are imprisoned following the Bolshevik Revolution. And it is here-through the eyes and memories of the kitchen boy Leonka-that we witness the end of a dynasty.
It was warm as only Siberia could be in the summer-humid, buggy, stifling . . . For two weeks the former Emperor had been asking-just a single window, just a little fresh air, that was all the former Tsar wanted for his family . . . I can't imagine what it must have been like for him, for Nikolai Aleksandrovich. One day he commands one-sixth of the world, the next he isn't even in charge of a single pane of glass.
And so they lived-behind palisades and locked and limed windows, never knowing from one hour to the next what would befall them. We come to know, in an intimate way, the personalities of the Romonovs. Nikolai, the devoted husband and father, lover of order, watches quietly, thoughtfully, as his world spins out of control. Aleksandra, whom we think aloof, is instead compassionate and caring toward the ill while at the same time sewing like a madwoman, hiding her beloved jewels in her daughter's corsets and the hems of clothing. A devoted and loving family they are.
In the midst of the uncertainty and suffering there are also simple pleasures: a walk in the garden, a cooling rain, a basket of fresh, brown eggs and a chetvert of milk, a book to read.
The end, it seems, is slow in coming, but arrive it does. And down the 23 steps the family and their attendants walk, down to the basement. The horrific execution is graphically described in minute detail.
But that is not the end of this story---not by far. Things are not as they seem. Twists and turns await the reader in this meticulously plotted, beautifully written novel. Highly Recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2006
Before reading this book, I had no knowledge of the Romanov family or of pre-communism Russia. After reading the book I visited the author's website and learned more about the history of the Romanov family and the revolution that was responsible for many of their deaths. If you read the book and enjoyed it, I would suggest looking at the site. Historians still do not know what exactly happened to the Romanov family when the majority of them (possibly all of them) were executed. This makes for some great speculation on the part of author Robert Alexander.
The author often is lengthy in his writing and provides the reader with a rich feel for Russian culture and history. But the first three quarters of the book go very slow. It took me about ten days to read this first part, and only one night to read the last quarter of the book. This last part of the book is excellent with some unexpected plot twists that postponed my bedtime. I recommend the book, but stick through the slow first part, the ending is worth it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Few royal families in history have consistently been the focus of as much discussion, literature, stage plays, movies, and even music as the fall of the Romanovs - the end of the Tsars of Russia. Not only is the period of Russian history fascinating because of the wealth of cultural information now known, but the fact that the fall of the Tsars was due to the influence of Lenin and the birth of the Bolsheviks and the subsequent rise of Communism through the Mighty Revolution to the fall of Communism as late as 1991. The history of Mother Russia is at last celebrated in the great museums of St Petersburg - not the least of which possessions are the much traveled jewels that were the sole surviving evidence of the Romanovs after their brutal slaying in 1918.
Robert Alexander has obviously spent extensive research into this period, uncovering documents of significance and achieving bits of detective work in a quest to explain the still unresolved questions about the July 18th slaying of the Romanov family. To our good fortune Alexander has elected to transform all of his research into one of the more fascinating of the many novels about those perilous times, and in doing so he has created a concise, immensely readable, short novel that breathes new life into Russian history.
Told through the eyes of Leonka the Kitchen Boy, who was 14 years old (the same age as the Heir apparent Aleksei) and observed the night of the slaughter of Nicholas and Alexandra and their five children and few servants, THE KITCHEN BOY is a fresh look at an important event and its sequelae. Leonka (now called Mischa as a very old and soon to die man living in America - the land of his refuge after the fall of the Romanovs) relates the inside story of the daily routines in the Ipatiev House (aka The House of Special Purpose), the final home in Siberia of the royal family. We learn the dynasty tradition and the errors made by Nicholas that lead to his fall, the Rasputin affair, and the idiosyncrasies of all the family members and their servants, forced to dwell in the heat of Siberia without the comforts of even ordinary people. The story of the events leading up to and including the unbelievable slaughter of the members of this household and the subsequent multiple burials of their remains are all part of Mischa's story he is leaving on a tape for his sole survivor Kate, his grand daughter. But the real reason for Mischa's final story on tape is to reveal the truth of what truly happened on the fateful July night in 1918 so that Kate might return the sequestered jewels of the Romanovs to Russia, assured that the Romanovs have been given a proper interment and that Communism has failed.
Thought the entire story is written in such a way that makes putting this book down very difficult, the best is saved for the last few chapters where surprises abound and at least one explanation for all the intrigue associated with the fall of the Tsars is explained. To reveal the ending would be a disservice to the inquisitive reader, whether that reader be an avid Russian history scholar or simply a lover of mysteries and intrigue novels. There is much to learn in this compact book and much to enjoy as a fine read by a talented writer. Grady Harp, December 2004