The best historical novels of the triumphs and tragedies of Russia's Romanovs

Ken Czech Author Of The Tsar's Locket
By Ken Czech

Who am I?

The Romanov saga has intrigued me since I was an undergraduate student in history many moons ago. Three hundred years of Romanov rule were filled with exotic beauty, violence, and tragedy. I went on to teach Russian history at university and was able to share some of the stories of the tsars and tsarinas with my students. Having authored books and articles in my academic field, my teaching career has ended. Now it is historical fiction that has captured my imagination and spurred me to pen my own novels set in 19th-century Africa and Afghanistan, as well as Russia during the reign of Ivan the Terrible.


I wrote...

The Tsar's Locket

By Ken Czech,

Book cover of The Tsar's Locket

What is my book about?

Julian Blunt, a former sea captain and a despised Catholic, is stunned when Queen Elizabeth proposes that he help carry a betrothal locket to Tsar Ivan the Terrible in Moscow. It means an alliance between England and Russia is brewing. Should the locket fall into the hands of the Pope, it could mean war.

Julian joins the queen's messenger, the spirited Jessandra Calcross, in a perilous journey into the heart of Russia. Stalked by a papal assassin determined to prevent the royal marriage, Julian is soon torn between safeguarding Jess and fulfilling his vow to the queen. If he fails the queen he'll never captain a ship again. But if he and Jess continue on to Moscow, they face a darker peril in Tsar Ivan.

The books I picked & why

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Russka: The Novel of Russia

By Edward Rutherfurd,

Book cover of Russka: The Novel of Russia

Why this book?

Rutherford's Russka was the first novel about Russia that I read nearly thirty years ago, and its descriptions and plotting still resonates. Through the lens of four families divided by ethnicity, the book sweeps the reader from Russia's Slavic origins to the Bolshevik Revolution. The chapter in which Tsar Ivan the Terrible plays a major role is especially riveting. What impressed me the most was how the author crafted a story of Russian rule and culture spanning 1,800 years and its impact on the characters. 

Russka: The Novel of Russia

By Edward Rutherfurd,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Russka as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this vast and gorgeous tapestry of a novel, serf and master, Cossack and tsar, priest and Jew are brought together in a family saga which unrolls through centuries of history to reveal that most impenetrable and mysterious of lands - Russia. Through the life of a little town east of Moscow in the Russian heartland, Edward Rutherfurd creates a sweeping family saga from the baffling contradictions of Russia's culture and her peoples - bleak yet exotic, brutal but romantic, land of ritual yet riddled with superstitious fears. From Russia's dawn and the cruel Tatar invasions to Ivan the Terrible…


Tsarina

By Ellen Alpsten,

Book cover of Tsarina

Why this book?

Empress Catherine the Great immediately comes to mind when referring to women who ruled Russia. In Tsarina, however, author Alpsten focuses on Catherine Alexeyevna, the wife of Peter the Great, who rose to power in the early 18th century. Born into devastating poverty, Catherine is a woman who holds her cards close and plays them judiciously. She seduces Peter, revels in the riches and debauchery of the Russian court, and emerges not only as his wife, but a linchpin to Russia's future when Peter dies. This is an extraordinary tale of a powerful and intelligent woman often ignored in history.

Tsarina

By Ellen Alpsten,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tsarina as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme." —Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter

“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times." —Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author

Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten's rich, sweeping debut novel is the story of her rise to power.

St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty…


The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

By C.W. Gortner,

Book cover of The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

Why this book?

Gortner's story of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Tsar Alexander III, features incredible historical detail on the tumultuous events sweeping through Russia from the tragic death of her husband to the awful murder of her son, Nicholas II, and his family. Told in first person, we see through the tsarina's eyes the slow and inevitable collapse of the Romanov dynasty in the face of gargantuan political and social upheavals. The descriptions of jewels and dresses and festivals underscores Romanov privilege when only a few had so much more than most.

What I found particularly interesting was Gortner's description of the conflict between Maria and Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas II, that spiraled to mistrust, grief, and anger.

The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

By C.W. Gortner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Romanov Empress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the fall of an empire and the bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.


The Romanov Bride

By Robert Alexander,

Book cover of The Romanov Bride

Why this book?

This book focuses on another woman from Russian history. Grand Duchess Elisavyeta was the sister of Tsarina Alexandra, the wife of Tsar Nicholas II. A woman of privilege and power, the grand duchess enjoyed all of the luxuries Russia had to offer until the murder of the Tsar Nicholas and his family. But this story also centers on Pavel, the son of serfs, who seeks a new life in St. Petersburg. The lives of Pavel and Elisavyeta intertwine as revolution changes them and their country. Both of these characters, one coming from privilege and the other from poverty, are well-defined and represent the chaos of their times.

The captivating ending to this book is tragic, where violence begets more violence, yet Alexander captures the humanity of both characters.

The Romanov Bride

By Robert Alexander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Romanov Bride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling tale of Romanov intrigue from the author of The Kitchen Boy

Book groups and historical fiction buffs have made Robert Alexander's two previous novels word-of-mouth favorites and national bestsellers. Set against a backdrop of Imperial Russia's twilight, The Romanov Bride has the same enduring appeal. The Grand Duchess Elisavyeta's story begins like a fairy tale-a German princess renowned for her beauty and kind heart marries the Grand Duke Sergei of Russia and enters the Romanov's lavish court. Her husband, however, rules his wife as he does Moscow-with a cold, hard fist. And, after a peaceful demonstration becomes a…


I Was Anastasia

By Ariel Lawhon,

Book cover of I Was Anastasia

Why this book?

The tragedy and mystery surrounding the murders of Tsar Nicholas and his family at the hands of the Bolsheviks has been well documented. Author Lawhon goes a step further through the eyes of Anastasia, the tsar's youngest daughter who was thought to have survived. But it is also the story of Anna Anderson, fished out of a canal in Berlin, and later claiming to be the lost Anastasia. This book is a splendid blend of stories of two young women caught in perilous times. The massacre of the Romanovs in the Ipatiev House is told in chilling detail, yet the fight by Anna Anderson to be recognized as Anastasia is equally as absorbing.

I Was Anastasia

By Ariel Lawhon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Was Anastasia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An enthralling feat of historical suspense that unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson's fifty-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess or the thief of another woman's legacy?

Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia, where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, the Romanov family, and empresses?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, the Romanov family, and empresses.

Russia Explore 258 books about Russia
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Empresses Explore 14 books about empresses

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Nicholas and Alexandra, The Kitchen Boy, and Most Beautiful Princess if you like this list.