The Romanov Rescue is an alternate-history political and military novel, written by Kacey Ezell, Tom Kratman, and Justin Watson. The premise, as the title would indicate, is the chronicling of an account of what might have happened had someone chosen to undertake the endeavor of rescuing the family of the last tsar of Russian. Who could and would have done so? How would they go about it? Would they have succeeded or failed, and at what cost? How would history have begun to take a different shape than the one we know now?
I am just going to say, I can see why it took three people to write this book. Any single author could write something almost entirely fantastical, making up all the bits and pieces of the world and how it operates on their own. Setting a story in a historical setting, and getting all the details right about things which were real, is a much more monumental effort. Heck, I recall that Jonathan Renshaw has an entire team of researchers helping him get all the nitty-gritty, realistic details right in his completely-fantastical story, Dawn of Wonder. How many man-hours must it take to accomplish such in a historically true rendition of an alternate history? Quite a few, I think, and I must applaud this trio of authors for their efforts and for the results.
In going over what I like and dislike about this novel, I will start with what I dislike, because that is a much shorter list, and has some nuance to it.
See, I love language, and all its power and poetry. But, in complete truth, I am absolutely useless when it comes to describing the technical aspects. To quote 1776, “I don’t know a participle from a predicate.” I know very little about the multitude of dog breeds, which I do like, and I know even less about cars, which I don’t like. I mention all this to put into context that while I appreciate guns a great deal, I can’t follow the technical aspects of them to save my life. It’s the only thing about Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters that I tend to skim straight over. And guess what took up a huge portion of this text? Technical descriptions of… everything. Guns included.
Actually, it could feel a little bit tedious as I read. If they somehow did not go over every single detail involved in the massive undertaking of setting up an army, well, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying! There’s a reason why our stories don’t usually feature entire armies as main characters. There may be huge casts with soldiers playing critical roles at every turn, but generally our stories follow a smaller handful of people across journeys around which the army’s success or failure will ultimately pivot.
And somehow it did not make me feel better when I realized what was actually going on: they were setting up a multitude of characters who were going into war, and a number of them were going to die for their cause. Each one of those men was important, as each and every soldier is important. Going through all the details of setting up, training, feeding, equipping, and transporting these men, among other things, encourages the reader to know them and feel for them, thus giving proper weight to their deaths by giving weight to their lives.
So, even what I did not like, in the end, still served the story and served it well.
There is something to be said for that.
I’m not saying it could not have been handled more efficiently, perhaps, but, still. I must admit it was well done.
As for what I absolutely liked about this novel, well, that’s a much longer list, although one that requires far less explanation and nuanced understanding.
Much as The Princess Bride had “fencing, fighting, chases, escapes, giants, revenge, true love, miracles,” so did The Romanov Rescue have love and loss, honor and betrayal, brutality and heroism, subtlety and exciting battles, triumph and tragedy, and more. All of it, often hand in hand.
I loved the characters, each of them with their own dedication to their cause, and their own motivations and capabilities. And their own hopes for the future. I’m probably not alone to say that my favorite character was Natalya, a young lady who was rescued from evil hands, and proved to be a magnificent woman in the making.
I loved the humor, which was interjected at all sorts of strange and knowing moments. My personal favorite, though, would have to be when the narrative momentarily followed events from a rat’s perspective. That just brought a smile to my face.
I loved the intricacies of the plot and how they developed. I especially enjoyed the adventures of the recon patrol as they infiltrated enemy territory, achieved their objectives, set things up for the rest of their forces to follow, and actually furthered their quest simply by doing the decent thing, the right thing, when confronted with inhumane evil along their journey.
I loved how nothing simply came out of nowhere. Of course any given situation can quickly change in the face of the unexpected, but anything that was significant at the climax was introduced and explained beforehand, so it was easy to follow and understand. In particular, I appreciated that the pivotal betrayal at the climax was set up throughout the entire preceding story. Mind you, I knew generally what shape that would take less because of my storytelling prescience and more because, in all honesty, if I had been such a traitor, what he did would have been a more deliberate plan on my part, rather than something improvised. …which is somewhat disturbing to contemplate about myself.
I particularly loved the accurate – and not so politically correct, these days – depiction of the socialists in their true form: as a mass of petty, lying, thieving, pillaging, raping, murdering, filthy bastards who thoroughly earned their place in Hell. The scene where one such Bolshevist picks a fight with another soldier over a matter of the latter washing his hands is something straight out of today’s experience with easily offended liberals. In that sense, seeing such a grounded and realistic portrayal of human monstrosity, as well as the nobility of the human soul in rendering justice upon such, was grandly cathartic almost on a spiritual level. Not that they let the tsars and other nobility off for their own crimes and other sins – this was much more fair and balanced than that – but the depravity of the socialist is practically without limit, and I am nothing but gladdened to see them portrayed accurately for once, in all their unmitigated evil. It’s quite refreshing to see an acknowledgement of the horrors of socialism.
And though there was definitely some set up for a sequel at the end, I loved how the ending was crafted in such a way that one could reasonably imagine, as both fans and storytellers do, what this story would mean in the history of this alternate Earth. It’s almost glorious to envision what might have been, how socialism might well have been stopped in its tracks before the many millions of murders it has committed. The only thing to dull that shine, really, is the fact of what actually did happen in our real history.
In short, The Romanov Rescue is an epic tale of what might have been on the path not taken, of heroism rising in the face of a great, sweeping evil. It is highly realistic, sometimes to the point of tedium, because most of what armies do is somehow both tedious and pivotal. It is highly political, not least in today’s culture where entire masses, ignorant of history, worship an ideology that has brought nothing but agony, death, sorrow, and suffering to this world, on a massive scale. It is the forlorn wish of how things might have been, and the hope of how things might yet be if good men and women simply open their eyes and straighten their spines.
It’s a very good book.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10. (sorry, I still hate the tedium)
Grade: A-Minus. And that’s not being generous.