Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dreaming Anastasia

Dreaming Anastasia

Joy Preble
For ages 14 and up
Sourcebooks, 2009   ISBN: 1402218176

For some time now, Anne has been dreaming that she is someone else, a girl who is witnessing the murder of a whole family. It is so real that the dream seems to spill into Anne’s waking life. It is very disturbing and unsettling. Who is the girl in the dream?

Then one day, when she is at the ballet with her friend Tess, Anne sees a very handsome boy who appears to be watching her. Soon after, Anne sees the same boy at a coffee shop and at her school. Could it be that he is following her around? Why are so many weird things happening to her?

Just when she thinks things could not get stranger, the boy, Ethan, offers to explain matters to Anne. What Anne hears is utterly improbable, and yet Anne finds that she does believe what she is hearing. For one thing, it explains why she has been having the strange dreams. Ethan tells her that he belongs to a brotherhood of men who have special powers. The members of the brotherhood use their powers to protect people, specifically the Russian royal family, the Romanovs.  In 1918, the leader of the brotherhood, Victor, arranged for Anastasia, the Russian Tsar’s youngest daughter, to be whisked out of danger. Victor used Ethan to compel Baba Yaga, a witch, to rescue Anastasia just at the moment when the rest of her family members were being killed.

Apparently, Anne is the one person who can free Anastasia from her captivity in Baba Yaga’s hut. Because of the spell Victor used on her, Baba Yaga has to do her best to prevent this.

Together Anne and Ethan try to figure out what it is they have to do to free Anastasia. They soon find out that Baba Yaga is not their only enemy. Someone else is also determined to stop them, and he is not afraid to commit murder to achieve his goal.

In this incredibly compelling and sometimes disturbing book, Joy Preble skillfully weaves together Russian fairytales and historical facts. The narrative shifts between Anne’s story, Ethan’s story, Anastasia’s story, and the letters that Anastasia writes to her dead family members as she waits to be rescued. Readers who have an interest in Russian history will get a better understanding of why the Romanovs did what they did, and why their actions led to their downfall. As they read, they will discover that the ties of blood can be very strong, and at the same time, they can cause great trouble and heartache.

This is Joy Preble’s first book.