Robert Alexander was our keynote speaker a few weeks ago at the River Valley Student Writers' Conference, and after listening to him talk and meeting with him afterward (a privilege extended to the teachers who bring kids to teh conference) I ran out to buy The Kitchen Boy and Rasputin's Daughter, two of his novels.
Few times has a book done so much to me. It taught me, it moved me, it made me cry. The story follows the final months of the Romanovs and their execution through the eyes of their kitchen boy, Leonka. I knew nothing about the Romanovs before and would say I knew practically nothing about Russian history, but this book made me want to get my hands on everything about Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov.
The book is well crafted, a balance of historical information and pure story. Alexander began the book with the narrator, Leonka, as an elderly man who has a secret. He then goes through the whole story, the experiences he had working for the Romanovs in captivity and the effects of their executions on him. All the while he keeps reminding readers that he has a secret to tell, but the action of the book is too compelling to wonder continually "what's the secret?" until the end where the secret is revealed, leaving the reader amazed and fulfilled.
I want to read this book over and over again. The complexity of the content is such that I know it can be read multiple times without losing its magic. The only sad part is that I won't ever have that moment of "first discovery" with it again, something I envy of anyone who has yet to read this incredible novel.