Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Lost Crown

The Lost Crown

Sarah Miller
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2011   ISBN: 1416983406

It is July 1914, and the Tsar of Russia is having a vacation with his family on the Imperial Yacht Stadart. Though these vacations are usually so enjoyable, this time a dark cloud hangs over everything. The tsar’s youngest child, his son and heir Aleksei, is not with them because he has injured himself again. Because Aleksei has hemophilia, even the smallest of cuts, scrapes, or bruises cause him terrible pain and suffering. As if this is not bad enough, Tsarina Alexandra’s close confident Grigori Rasputin was attacked by a mad woman and injured. Her daughters, the four grand duchesses, worry a great deal that she will collapse if her dear friend dies. Then there is the worry about what will happen in response to the Serbian assassinated of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Though the tsar might abhor the brutal attack on another European royal, he has to support the Serbs because they are Russia’s “Slavic brothers.”

Sure enough, the fears of the sisters are well founded because soon Russia is fighting in a European war against Austria, Germany, and their allies. Their father is often absent, and the tsarina and her two eldest daughters, Tatiana and Olga, go and work in the local hospital. Without complaint, they care for the wounded soldiers and for the tsarina at least it is a godsend. The work takes her mind off her own personal worries. Tatiana “has a knack for nursing” and enjoys doing something useful. Poor Olga is much more squeamish, and the wounds that she has to see and tend to make her feel sick to the stomach.

At first, the soldiers are glad to see the tsarina and her two eldest daughters. They enjoy having Aleksei and Anastasia visit as well, but as the war drags on their good humor fades. When the tsar takes over the high command, things get even worse. Now everyone blames him when the Russian forces lose battles and sustain great losses. The sisters notice that they are no longer greeted by their people with happy faces.

Though they have plenty of warning that all is not well in Russia, the sisters are appalled when they hear that their father has abdicated. Russia will be led by the Provisional Government and the Romanovs are placed under house arrest. They can only go outside when they have permission to do so, and the soldiers sent to guard them take pleasure in being as unkind to them as is possible.

Over time, the Romanovs get used to their new life. They plant a garden, have a few good friends with them, and life is not too bad. Little do they know that soon everything is going to change yet again.

Told from the point of view of the grand duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, this novel will help readers to better understand what it was like to be a Romanov as their dynasty collapsed. The author captures the distinct personalities of the four girls to get effect so that we feel as if we are getting to know them, and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses.

At the back of the book, the author provides further information about the demise of the Romanovs, some photos of them, and background information.