“The Romanov Prophecy” by Steve Berry

 
TRPTitle: The Romanov Prophecy
Author: Steve Berry
Read Date: 30 September 2011
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars (I liked it.)
Review in a nutshell: Did someone say Fabergé easter egg?!!!
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Publisher’s Synopsis: Atlanta lawyer Miles Lord, fluent in Russian and well versed in the country’s history, is thrilled to be in Moscow on the eve of such a momentous event. After the fall of Communism and a succession of weak governments, the Russian people have voted to bring back the monarchy. The new tsar will be chosen from the distant relatives of Nicholas II by a specially appointed commission, and Miles’ job is to perform a background check on the Tsarist candidate favored by a powerful group of Western businessmen. But research quickly becomes the least of Miles’ concerns when he is nearly killed by gunmen on a city plaza.

Suddenly Miles is racing across continents, shadowed by nefarious henchmen. At first, his only question is why people are pursuing him. But after a strange conversation with a mysterious Russian, who steers Miles toward the writings of Rasputin, he becomes desperate to know more, most important, what really happened to the family of Russia’s last tsar?

His only companion is Akilina Petrova, a Russian circus performer sympathetic to his struggle, and his only guide is a cryptic message from Rasputin that implies that the bloody night of so long ago is not the last chapter in the Romanov story . . . and that someone might even have survived the massacre. The prophecy’s implications are earth-shattering, not only for the future of the tsar and mother Russia, but also for Miles himself.

 

Like Dan Brown, Steve Berry is a guilty pleasure kind of read for me. And for the record, I don’t care much about historical accuracy (or inaccuracy, in Brown’s case,) I just like alternate history and the way these authors spin their stories.

I’ve read only 2 other books by Berry so far: The Amber Room and The Venetian Betrayal. I’ve come to like Cotton Malone as a protagonist in Venetian, so it took a while to adjust to someone different, like Miles Lord here in The Romanov Prophecy.

I got used to him alright, but I didn’t really like Miles all that much. The Romanovs, Rasputin, and the other historical side-characters were more interesting, which says a lot, considering most of them are dead throughout most of the book. Miles just seems to serve as a focal point for the plot to move forward, and that’s pretty much it. Heck, even characters who appear only during the last few chapters were more interesting than Miles. (Sorry, Miles. I mean, if you haven’t figured out who was really after you after all those security breaches, then… *shrug*)

I also had a problem with the first half of the book, which, although it began with a murder attempt (which is as good a beginning as any,) seemed to drag. Berry got into the more intriguing part of the plot–the “treasure hunt”–only about halfway through.

What pushed me to continue reading, though, were my interest in the conspiracy surrounding the alleged survival of Anastasia and Alexei, and several years’ worth of fascination with the Imperial Easter Eggs.

Did you say Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs, Steve? Now you have my attention.

Ever since high school, when I read about the eggs in Judith Krantz’s Princess Daisy (my mother liked Judith Krantz, and there was a time when I had to rely on her for books to read,) I’ve read up on them and Googled them several times. I like looking at the pictures and reading about the history of each egg and finding out where they are now.

In this book, Berry used the Lilies of the Valley egg as a plot point:

 

 

This egg was given by Tsar Nicholas II to the Tsarina Alexandra on Easter (April 5) 1898. It is made of gold, rose pink and green enamel, diamonds, rubies, and pearls.

All the Imperial Eggs have a surprise; this one’s are miniature portraits of the Tsar and their 2 elder daughters painted on ivory, which are revealed by turning a pearl knob.

 

 

The egg is now part of the collection of The Link of Times Foundation (Russia). And that’s all for today’s Imperial Easter Egg lesson. 😛

The ending of the book felt a bit rushed; I wanted more of a closure between Miles, Akilina, and the mysterious Semyon Pachenko, who served as the starting point for their quest, as well as some kind of crackdown on the people behind the manipulation of the Tsarist Commission. A royal coronation is well and good as endings go, but I wish Berry provided a few more details to wrap things up.

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