Title: Dreaming Anastasia
Author: Joy Preble
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Russian Folklore
Summary: Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.
In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college--until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams...
The Dish: What did happen to Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the Russian tsar? That is a mystery that has plagued historians for years, but in Dreaming Anastasia, Joy Preble has managed to integrate the mystery into a fairytale that readers will feel is more real than originally thought. While the focus is not on Anastasia (at least not entirely), she is the key at the heart of the quest that brings together Ethan, a man who has been searching for the one girl who will help him free Anastasia, and Anne, a modern girl just trying to make it through high school.
I adored both Anne and Ethan. Both of them developed as characters quite well considering the short amount of time they spend with each other. It was a great big plus in my book to be able to get inside both of their heads as well as Anastasia's in chapters of alternating points of view. For Anastasia, I feel as though I knew her more through her letters to her family, and how hard it must have been for her to write each of them. There were a few chapters where I forgot who was talking and became a little confused, having to go back to the beginning of the chapter and remember whose point of view I was reading from. However, once I dove further into the book, Preble's transitions between our three main characters were seamless.
Seeing the villain of a fairytale like Baba Yaga being used as a force for good puts the entire "good vs. evil" arguement in perspective. There are always areas of gray matter in which a hero might be forced to do something wicked and a villain might do something beneficial for someone beyond themselves. Characters that break the molds of their stereotypes draw my interest and curiosity, so I'm eager to see how Preble will utilize Baba Yaga in the next books.
While Russian folklore isn't studied or read as often as other fairytales, I'm glad to see an author like Joy Preble thinking outside of the box with her Anastasia trilogy. I'm looking forward to reading the continuation of Anne and Ethan's story in Haunted and Anastasia Forever (which is due to be released in August).