Anastasia Forever, by Joy Preble

I rarely participate in blog tours, because I'm so disorganized I break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of having to meet a specific deadline. And Wordcandy typically only reviews series installments if we've already read all of the earlier books in the series, because we feel like we need to know the story's background in order to give the newest installment a fair shake. So when I found myself desperately downloading two earlier novels in Joy Preble's Dreaming Anastasia series on Friday afternoon—meaning I had three books to read and a review to write before nine the next morning—I was Not Thrilled.

Luckily for me, Preble's series is entertaining enough to make reading three books in one evening a pleasure rather than a chore. The first installment, Dreaming Anastasia, introduces modern-day teenager Anne Michaelson, a level-headed ballet student living in Chicago. Despite some seriously weird dreams about a group execution in a basement, Anne knows little and cares less about the Russian Revolution, so she is understandably skeptical when a mysterious (and ancient, although he appears eighteen) guy named Ethan announces that she is the key to rescuing the long-lost Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov from a mystical prison. Unfortunately, Ethan is telling the truth—which Anne discovers when a group of magic-wielding thugs immediately attempts to kill her.

Haunted trots out a fresh danger (oddly enough, more killer mermaids from the Great Lakes), while Anastasia Forever manages to simultaneously introduce plenty of new information and bring the earlier storylines to a satisfying close. Preble doesn't waste any time reviewing previous plot elements, so the second and third books don't really work as standalone novels, but the three stories combine into one imaginative, action-packed, and frequently very funny whole, featuring an awesome supporting cast and an impressively fearless heroine.

The heroines of YA paranormal romances rarely display much common sense, but Anne won my heart with the following exchange from the first book, which takes place after she and Ethan nearly kiss for the first time:
“I don't think so,” I tell him. “You—a hundred. Me—sixteen.”
They kiss eventually, of course, but at least Anne is aware of the creepiness of their age difference. Most paranormal romance writers act like it's absolutely natural for their heroines to hook up with men who are way older than they are, despite the fact that these elderly-at-heart love interests would presumably have the tastes and cultural expectations of the girls' great-great-grandfathers. (Picture it: “In my day, nice girls never would have worn pants," huffed Edward Cullen.) This kind of emotional honesty, along with a constant stream of brutally frank comments from Anne's best friend, reminded me of what I've always liked about Meg Cabot's books—but, unlike most of Meg Cabot's recent efforts, the Dreaming Anastasia series is a complete story, not a half-baked idea dressed up with a series of clever remarks.

I closed Anastasia Forever completely satisfied with the way I'd spent my Friday night*, and determined to look up the various deleted scenes and author Q-and-A sessions featured on the other stops on this tour... after I get some sleep, anyway. It turns out that charging through eight hundred pages of anything—even a YA series as enjoyable as this one—takes a lot out of me.

*This is why I never learn. Once again, my lack of organization is rewarded.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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