The best historical fiction on royalty and Russia

Who am I?

After a relatively short career in research science, Helen Azar switched gears and returned to graduate school to fulfill a dream of becoming a reference librarian. She worked at the Free Library of Philadelphia for ten years, during which time she became a published author. While researching for her first book, The Diary of Olga Romanov, Helen visited Russia several times, and worked in the Rare Book Fund at the Museum at Tsarskoe Selo, which holds the imperial book collection. Today, Helen lives on the beautiful far south coast of New South Wales, Australia; she continues writing about Russia's last imperial family and leads Romanov history tours. She also administers The Romanov Family website and is the content creator for a YouTube channel In the Steps of the Romanovs.

I wrote...

In the Steps of the Romanovs: Final two years of the last Russian imperial family (1916-1918)

By Helen Azar,

Book cover of In the Steps of the Romanovs: Final two years of the last Russian imperial family (1916-1918)

What is my book about?

By 1916, Russia had been involved in the First World War for almost two years, and events were about to take a tumultuous turn. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his throne, and what followed was a struggle that neither he, nor most of his nearest, were destined to survive. This volume offers an accurate glimpse into the final two years of the last Imperial Family of Russia: exclusively through their own diary entries and personal correspondence, supplemented by contemporary eyewitness accounts, many of which are published here in English for the first time.

The reader will get to know on a deeper level the Grand Duchesses and the Empress, as they work at Tsarskoe Selo infirmaries; witness the imperial family's grief for their murdered "Friend" Grigori Rasputin; experience their arrest after the outbreak of the revolution, and follow them into captivity in Siberia - and ultimately the Red Ural - where they meet their tragic end in the cellar of "The House of Special Purpose". This already familiar unique piece of history is individually told by Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei. Their collective personal story is a portrayal of a united family bound together by love, hardship, and tragedy, taking place during the twilight of an extraordinary bygone era. 

The books I picked & why

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Most Beautiful Princess

By Christina Croft,

Book cover of Most Beautiful Princess

Why this book?

Don't let the title fool you, this is not a bodice-ripping romance novel by any means. This is a wonderful - and serious - novelization of the life of Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia. Clearly well researched, well written, with realistic character development and dialog - a treat for any Russian history or Romanov history buff! 

Russka: The Novel of Russia

By Edward Rutherfurd,

Book cover of Russka: The Novel of Russia

Why this book?

I really love Edward Rutherfurd's writing style. He obviously does plenty of historical research, so the events in his epic sagas are accurate, and yet he is creative enough to come up with fictional characters which fit into history in the most interesting and remarkable way. By reading this one, you can painlessly learn several centuries of Russian history and have lots of fun doing it. I would say that this one and "London" are two of his best efforts.

The Lost Crown

By Sarah Miller,

Book cover of The Lost Crown

Why this book?

It is generally not easy to find quality historical fiction, and this goes tenfold for fiction about the last Russian imperial family. This book is a definite exception to the rule. Historically accurate down to minute details, and at the same time very well written, the story in The Lost Crown starts just before the revolution and covers the events that lead up to the assassination of the Russian imperial family.

Seen through the eyes of the four historically neglected daughters of the last Tsar - Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia (OTMA), who are usually treated as a collective whole (unless you count trashy novels like Tsarina's Daughter or Anastasia-"survivor"-pseudo-non-fiction, which of course you shouldn't). In this novel, the sisters are portrayed sensitively and realistically, and most importantly as individuals. They are depicted as neither saints, nor as brats, but as normal girls/young women, as they most certainly were. The novel is told from the perspective of each individual sister, each takes a turn with the narrative. Their personalities develop as each chapter unfolds, and it is all based on historical descriptions of those who knew the girls personally, so it will satisfy even the most "purist" Romanov-phile. OTMA are presented, atypically, as multi-dimensional characters, with numerous factual anecdotes effectively incorporated into each girl's narrative, which adds a lot of reality to the story. At times they are funny, at other times - touching or sad, but they are all very real. IMO, this is arguably the best depiction, fiction or non-fiction, of the ill-fated OTMA sisters. 

The Royal Mob

By Theresa Sherman,

Book cover of The Royal Mob

Why this book?

Very well researched and well written, the author weaves historical facts into the story with elegant ease, which makes it not only fun to read but also informative. There was even a point when I had to double-check to make sure this was really a work of fiction and not a real memoir by Victoria Battenberg. You really get to know her in this book, and realize that she was not just one of the more obscure of Queen Victoria's granddaughters, but an interesting character in her own right, who was a witness to the crucial historical events of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Rubies in the Snow: Diary of Russia's Last Grand Duchess, 1911-1918

By Kate Hubbard,

Book cover of Rubies in the Snow: Diary of Russia's Last Grand Duchess, 1911-1918

Why this book?

I am surprised that I never came across this book until now. I rarely read Young Adult books, but of course make exceptions for Romanov fiction. There simply is not enough decent Romanov fiction out there, period. IMO this one is a gem. Although of course it is not based on the diaries of real Anastasia (who unfortunately burnt them all when the revolution broke out), the author clearly did a lot of research and seemingly read the diaries of the other sisters. Not sure why this book got so many 3 star ratings, even though the reviews say it is a very good book, but I would definitely recommend it to Romanov fiction and non-fiction history fans.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, and revolutions?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, and revolutions.

Russia Explore 210 books about Russia
Tsar Nicholas II Explore 14 books about Tsar Nicholas II
Revolutions Explore 10 books about revolutions

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia, and Romanoff Gold if you like this list.