Hi, welcome to my once-in-a-blue-moon feature, Three on a Theme, wherein I'll highlight three books that have something in common and that I can (usually) wholeheartedly recommend.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Russian history. To be more specific, I was obsessed with Romanov history, and to be even more specific, I was obsessed with the last Romanovs (aka Anastasia and her family). Yes, this was 100% spurred on by seeing the TRULY EXCELLENT I DON'T CARE HOW INACCURATE IT IS animated movie in first grade, but after that I read every book i could about first Anastasia, then her family and the revolution that killed her, then her lineage and country stretching all the way back through the centuries. I love novels set in Russia. I love nonfiction set in Russia. I love Russian food, history, culture, architecture, YOU NAME IT, I'm into it. Especially if it has to do with Romanovs.
So it's no surprise that I'm super into this recent mini trend of Russian-set or -inspired fantasies. Taking two of my fave things--Russian culture and fantasy novels--and mash them together only leads to EVEN BETTER THINGS. There are two upcoming releases in particular with a Russian flavor that are making me extremely excited.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, while definitely not the first Russian-inspired YA fantasy, totally kicked off this trend, and for good reason: the world building is KICK. ASS. It's not set in historical Russia, but the world of Ravka is inspired by early nineteenth century Russia. The world is so RICH that it truly feels like I could go to Ravka, a world of peasants and kings, saints and magic, death and snow. Tons has been said about this truly excellent series, so I'm not going o say much more other than READ IT (and especially read Six of Crows, because as wonderful as the Grisha Trilogy is, Six of Crows is 100 times better).
Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie, which comes out in February. I'm about a quarter of the way through this book, and I already REALLY LIKE IT. It's set in a high fantasy version of Russia, just like Shadow and Bone. The main character, Sonya, is an Auraseer, a sort of empath who feels the feelings of those around her. As the eldest Auraseer (something achieved through VERY GRISLY MEANS, lending Sonya a very authentically Russian guilty soul), Sonya is charged with safeguarding the Emperor. But the Emperor has seeeeecrets, and so does his handsome brother.
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye, which comes out in May. This is the only one of the three actually set in historical Russia, and I'm so excited for it I barely know what to say. This book was originally titled The Tsar's Game, and the moment I saw the announcement go up in Publisher's Weekly, I sat bolt upright like my dog does whenever I approach the box of kibble. Russian historical fantasy!!! I mean:
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
So if you, like me, are into all things Russian and all things fantasy, hopefully you'll keep an eye out for these releases! And if you know of any other Russian fantasy books, hit me with them! I know of the Robin Bridges series, but I'd love any more recs you can throw my way.
And now we end with GIFS
Oh whoops how did those last two sneak in there
If you weren't at least a little bit in love with Dimitri as a child you are lying (or older) (or I guess not cartoon-sexual which what how, all my favorite boyfriends are drawings that sing)