The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, YA, July 8, 2014), is an absolutely top-notch exposition of its subject. It's a pretty gripping story, of course, and reading this book is much like watching a train wreck in progress. But even knowing the horrible inevitability of the end doesn't make the journey less suspenseful.
Fleming's beautifully lucid prose humanizes its subjects without straying into any sort of overly emotional intimacy--their story is fascinating one, and they are fascinating people, and she is wise enough to let the primary sources and the facts of the matter speak for themselves without distracting authorly adornment. It is narrative non-fiction of the sort that makes the people whose lives are recounted believable, without straying into speculation about things we can never know. And Fleming doesn't tell the reader what to think, meaning that the reader is left with lots of room for independent pondering.
Interspersed in the account of the Romanovs--Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children--are primary sources that give voice to other Russians--the peasants, the workers, the ordinary people. It is a tremendously effective approach. Not only does it break up the primary narrative in a friendly sort of way for those with shorter attention spans, but it makes the whole state of affairs in Russia much more vividly real. Numerous photographs, not just of the Romanovs and Rasputin, but of the world they lived in (including horrific images from WW I), also bring the past to life.
I never thought I would really truly have a grasp on this period of Russian history (and the causes of World War I--it's the best two page discussion of this I've ever read), but this book has managed to educate me most beautifully. But though I appreciate being educated immensely, I appreciate even more the fact that I sincerely enjoyed the reading of the book. It's maybe marketed to YA audiences, but there absolutely no reason why even older adults won't like it too.
(includes bibliography, footnotes, and index)
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher