I didn't know much about Tsarist Russia and the tragedy of the Imperial Romanov family before reading this book. The author's deft writing had me hooked before the first chapter was over. We know the final outcome before starting the book, and the author does a great job setting the scene of life in Russia before, during, and after the fall of the Tsarist Empire. Tsar Nicholas and his family were so far removed from the people over which they ruled, watching these events play out to their ultimate end was like watching the proverbial train wreck. You know what's coming, and you can see exactly how every moment is unrelentingly and irrevocably unfolding into the next, but you just can't tear your gaze away -- or put the book down -- until the horrible end finally arrives.
Very engaging writing makes this book an easy read, and it should be accessible to middle school students, as well as older teens and adults. The author provides newly accessible and highly informative journal and diary entries written by people from all social strata and many different occupations, bringing her picture of Imperial Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution, and World War I vividly to life. A section of photographs, some taken by the Imperial family (who would have guessed that they were nuts for photography?) provide an additional layer of detail.
A must-read for anyone interested in learning more about this period in history!