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Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic, and the Power of Dreams    by Joy Preble order for
Dreaming Anastasia
by Joy Preble
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Joy Preble puts an interesting spin on the Anastasia theories and Russian folklore in Dreaming Anastasia. This debut novel is a wonderful mix of fantasy, historical fiction, romance, mystery, and modern fairytale.

Anne Michaelson has been having weird dreams lately. In them, she is Anastasia Romanov watching as her family is executed, before a pair of giant hands whisks her away to the cottage of Baba Yaga. When Anne continually crosses paths with the mysterious Ethan, she learns that her dreams are real. It seems that Anne has the power to free the princess if only she can figure out the clues. Ethan, who has been immortal since the time of Anastasia's imprisonment in Baba Yaga's cottage, wants to help her, but first they must survive numerous encounters with the Brotherhood (the secret organization, that saved Anastasia from death), who now wants Anne dead. The key to finding Anastasia lies in a lacquered box Anne's mother gave her depicting the story of Vasilisa the Brave - but with everyone's life on the line, Anne must unravel the puzzle faster that she would like.

Dreaming Anastasia is a powerful novel that immediately drags you in and keeps you enthralled through a whirlwind of intrigue and action. Both Anne and Ethan are instantly likeable, as is Anne's best friend Tess. Anne and Tess are very real high schoolers, something not always found in YA novels, much to Preble's credit. Ethan is a unique character who has stayed true to his mission for almost a hundred years. All three are strong-willed, making them excellent heroes for the story.

The one downside to Dreaming Anastasia is its switching between Anne's and Ethan's points of view, both written in first person. Even though Preble clearly marks the chapters with the narrator's identity, both characters think a little too much alike, lending to slight confusion. The chapters from Anastasia's point of view are very clear, most likely due to their setting and a more historical style. I do have to hand it to Preble, though, for writing a present-tense narrative that is so well-executed that I did not realize the book was in the present tense until almost halfway through. Dreaming Anastasia shows that Joy Preble is a talent to watch. Realistic teenagers in a fantasy novel are not that easy to come by, but Anne Michaelson makes this book a must read.

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