Monday, 31 December 2012

The Romanov Cross



Author: Robert Masello
Type: E-book ARC (NetGalley)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Suspense
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
To Be Published: March 5, 2013
First Line: "Sergei, do not die," the girl said, turning around in the open boat."

Publisher Description: Nearly one hundred years ago, a desperate young woman crawled ashore on a desolate arctic island, carrying a terrible secret and a mysterious, emerald-encrusted cross. A century later, acts of man, nature, and history converge on that same forbidding shore with a power sufficient to shatter civilization as we know it.

Army epidemiologist Frank Slater is facing a court-martial, but after his punishment is mysteriously lifted, Slater is offered a job no one else wants—to travel to a small island off the coast of Alaska and investigate a potentially lethal phenomenon: The permafrost has begun to melt, exposing bodies from a colony that was wiped out by the dreaded Spanish flu of 1918. Frank must determine if the thawed remains still carry the deadly virus in their frozen flesh and, if so, ensure that it doesn’t come back to life.

Frank and his handpicked team arrive by helicopter, loaded down with high-tech tools, prepared to exhume history. The colony, it transpires, was once settled by a sect devoted to the mad Russian monk Rasputin, but there is even more hiding in the past than Frank’s team is aware of. Any hope of success hinges on their willingness to accept the fact that even their cutting-edge science has its limits—and that the ancient wisdom of the Inuit people who once inhabited this eerie land is as essential as any serum. By the time Frank discovers that his mission has been compromised—crashed by a gang of reckless treasure hunters—he will be in a brutal race against time. With a young, strong-willed Inuit woman by his side, Frank must put a deadly genie back in the bottle before all of humanity pays the price.

The Romanov Cross is at once an alternate take on one of history’s most profound mysteries, a love story as unlikely as it is inevitable, and a thriller of heart-stopping, supernatural suspense. With his signature blend of fascinating history and fantastic imagination, critically acclaimed author Robert Masello has once again crafted a terrifying story of past events coming back to haunt the present day . . . and of dark deeds aching to be unearthed.


My Thoughts:  This book pulled me in from the get-go.  How could it not?  It literally has a little bit of everything.  We have a mystery, adventure, superstition, supernatural, Inuit culture, historical figures, science, romance and edge of your seat action all set in two different eras!  That's a whole lot of topics in one book ... but in this book it works.

The first thing that struck me with this book was the pace.  It's literally non-stop and I think that stems from the fact that we're dealing with two very different storylines.  We follow the story of the mysterious Anastasia Romanov in the early 1900's in the tumultuous last days of the once powerful Romanov dynasty.  We also have epidemiologist Frank Slater in modern day Alaska with a very arduous task ahead of him.  While this jumping back and forth could prove to be confusing for the reader, the author helps the reader keep track of when and whom they're reading about.

If I had to choose my least favourite parts of the book I'd have to say that the romance between Frank and Nika was at the top.  In my honest opinion, it just wasn't necessary and didn't add to the storyline for me.  The romance between Anastasia and her beau was much more believable and was necessary to further the book.

I also wasn't a big fan of the rag tag band of misfit thieves in modern day Alaska.  While they added some suspense and chaos to the story, they ended up coming off as a bit of a farce.  They seemed to be able to outsmart a group of highly trained military personnel too easily.

The highlights of this book for me were its fast pace but even more so, how the author took two historical topics -- the Spanish flu epidemic and historical real-life figures of Rasputin and the Romanov dynasty -- and linked them with a tense, modern day issue to make a very entertaining, high action read. 

I look forward to reading more from this author.  Recommended.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: My sincere thanks to Random House Publishing, Robert Masello and NetGalley for providing me with this complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.


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