I’m beginning to realise I’m not necessarily equipped to write book reviews without being too emotional and attached; I always end up being an emotional wreck at the end of a book, even if just for the fact that it ended. But I’ll keep powering on, and hope if the authors ever read my reviews, they’ll forgive me, and be proud that their writing caused my overthinking, mental instability, and emotional outburst.
Are you ever in a bad mood and you can’t figure out why, and then you realise it’s because something has upset you in your book?
Pretty much sums up The Bronze Horseman for me.
I guess, having 4 sisters and trust issues, I’m just not really okay with girls hooking up with their sisters’ boyfriends. Or boys hooking up with two sisters at once. I don’t know, that could just be me. It’s also frustrating that this issue isn’t resolved satisfactorily, it felt like a cop out solution to me, and didn’t ease all of my concerns.
I’m actually finding it hard to figure out where to start with this review. To me, this book was about five books all combined into one. And I only enjoyed about three of those books. There was a lot of reading involved, and a heap of separate stories being told.
It’s set in the Soviet Union in 1941 when Hitler invades. When I initially picked it up in Target, the blurb tickled my fancy when I realised it included not only romance, but also history and war, as well as events and people (namely Stalin and Hitler) that I had actually studied before. And it was a really interesting read in the ways of the war, the repercussions and struggles of wartime, the thoughts of the comrades of Communist Russia, and reading about what desperate civilians were doing to survive. It was a nice change to the typical love stories I read, with some more depth and history.
We follow Tatiana Metanov from the tender age of 17, as she grows from a child that her family believes should be seen not heard, to an independent women capable of caring for her sick family, suturing war wounds, sewing body bags, cooking, and making sweet, sweet love to her Alexander. I can say that, because out of those five distinct sections I spoke about, one of them was just that. Seriously.
The relationship Tatiana has with Alexander is a cross between Bella and Edward, and Ana and Christian Grey. Worshipping, borderline abusive, controlling, doting. The character of Alexander, in my opinion, disintegrates in terms of morality as the novel unfolds, and becomes harder to respect. I can see the intention behind him being constructed this way, but it leads to him being borderline unlikeable.
Paullina Simons creates a well-constructed villain in Dimitri. He is thoroughly unlikeable, and I was eventually satisfied with his fate. Other occasional bad guys included some creepy cannibals trying to get Tatiana on the street when there’s no food left in Leningrad, and desperate civilians that pop up every now and then to rob her and to show the desperation of the time. Add to that the abusive family who don’t respect her or her wellbeing, and we have a full coverage of people being mean to Tatiana, for the entirety of the book. But Tatiana is strong and finds strength to keep going despite all the horrific things that happen to her.
I’m not here to tear apart Simons’ writing, because let’s face it, she’s done a hell of a lot better than me (seeing as how I can’t even complete a simple first draft). And this review might come across harsher than intended, simply because I only finished reading it mere hours ago and the wound is still fresh and I am still recovering.
I mentioned it was set in 1941. At first. By the time the book ended, it was 1943. Yeah, a lot happened in this book. Just imagine how much happened in the lives of Russians living in the Soviet Union during the German invasion. Yeah, a lot. Now you might understand the journey I’ve just been on. I feel exhausted by the sheer volume of knowledge, events, characters and plot twists I’ve just consumed.
You know that little thing you do when you’re reading and you come across an unknown word you don’t know how to pronounce, and you kind of just skip over it? Prepare to do a lot of that. Not in a bad way, just in a Russian-words-and-cities-are-tough way.
Prepare for the ruthless death of characters, nearly equalling to the ruthlessness of JK Rowling when writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I mean, I know that it’s war, and obviously there were many many civilian and solider deaths. But named characters? I haven’t read the sequels yet, but Simons might even be set to overtake Rowling with her named character death count. And that’s saying something.
If someone showed me the cover and didn’t let me read the back, I would say it’s most likely a teenage romance novel; something like a female protagonist at high school going through teenage mental issues and falling in love for the first time. The cover doesn’t even begin to describe the war/history aspect of the book, or do any sort of justice to the depth of the book. But hey, don’t judge a book by its cover, right?
There were about 157 parts in the book where I felt it could have ended. But where it did end was not one of them. I finished the last word, realised I had no more pages left, and cried. Seriously. I couldn’t believe I’d been through everything I’d been through, just for her to end it there. And I guess I could just go find the sequel to answer my lingering questions, but I’m not ready. I need time to heal. This whole novel was an emotional, intellectual rollercoaster. But I made it, I got out of the car, nauseous and sad it’s over, but knowing I won’t need to ride that rollercoaster again for a good long time.
Recommend it? Yes, if you have a lot of time and patience on your hands
Read before bed? Surprisingly, yes
Cry-worthy? I shed tears on more than one occasion, yes
Re-readable? If I ever want to torment myself
Potential to fall in love with characters? Yes, but then it kind of goes away and you realise you’re better off without him
Score /10? Gonna have to go with 6.5/10