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The Romanov Prophecy    by Steve Berry order for
Romanov Prophecy
by Steve Berry
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

FACT: In 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children are held captive by the Bolshevik revolutionaries in the Siberian town of Ekaterinburg. They and their servants are brutally executed to bring an end to the Romanov monarchy. In 1991, after the Soviet regime falls, the Romanovs are exhumed and it is found that two of the children's bodies are missing.

In the present-day Russia of this novel ... Communism has failed, democracy is dysfunctional, and the people have voted on a referendum to re-establish the monarchy and a new tsar. Much can happen in a week's time, and between these covers African-American attorney Miles Long lives that week with a vengeance; 'In fifteen seconds his life changed forever.' During a leisurely walk with young Russian attorney Artemy Bely, a tinted-window Volvo approaches and its occupants open fire on the duo, killing Bely. Miles overhears, 'the chornye (nigger) survived', leading him to believe that the bullets were meant for him. Though the assailants were dressed in police uniform, it wasn't clear whether they were 'mafyia' or 'militysa'. Miles flees to the Hotel Volkhov to report the incident to his boss/mentor, Taylor Hayes (one of four managing partners in the 200-member law firm of Pridgen and Woodworth, from Atlanta, Georgia.)

Fluent in the language and history of the country, Long's assignment is to confirm the background of Stefan Baklanov as a legitimate contender for the Russian throne. With that responsibility comes research into the archives at the Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Contemporary History, including stories of Rasputin (the Romanov's priest) and the unusual, unfolding prophecy. Long discovers 'The Protective Papers' that may dispute Baklanov's claim. He finds an ally in circus performer Akilina Petrovna. To escape from assailants, and to continue the search into the monarchy's bloodline, Lord and Akilina return to the United States. They meet with a descendant of a deceased, one-time guard of the Romanovs, Kolya Maks, to learn more of the possible escape of two of the last tsar's children. Clues in a small treasure box from the gravesite of Kolya leads the twosome into even more dangerous territory.

This thriller has an intriguing what-if premise, i.e. what if the Romanov family members were not all murdered in 1918, and what if two of the children escaped to the United States? Steve Berry blends historical accounts of the assassination with imagined predictions made by the Romanov's priest, Rasputin. Unfortunately character and faction development is often left hanging, leaving the reader wondering why were they put in the story to begin with. Aside from that, Berry's premise holds its own with a believable and entertaining plot that combines historical fact with fiction, propelling the reader to a satisfactory ending. (And if you're interested in reading more about the topic, I recommend The Romanovs and Nicholas and Alexandra, both by Robert K. Massie.)

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