Review: “Waking Anastasia,” Timothy Reynolds

Pros: Gorgeous story of love and loss
Cons: Some issues (see review); abrupt ending
Rating: 3 out of 5

Timothy Reynolds’s Waking Anastasia is a lovely paranormal romance. Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova, in 1918, is killed and becomes bound as a ghost to a book, which is found by a Canadian soldier. In the present day, radio station manager Jeremy (Jerry) Powell has inherited the book, and he meets Ana. The two gradually fall in love, but Jerry comes to find out that he is very ill. Thus ensues an absolutely beautiful story of love and loss.

The romance unfolds gradually and is very lovely. (No adult content, in case you’re wondering.) It has something of a fairy-tale feel to it. Ana figures out that she can become solid enough to affect the real world and be seen by people other than Jerry, and she gets to explore the modern world a bit. Jerry’s illness is also handled very well. We get to see him go through the various physical and emotional stages, and it’s quite sad. I loved reading about Ana’s exploration of the modern world as she learns new things from YouTube and takes photographs of everything.

One of the things that impressed me is Reynolds’s grasp of the “show, don’t tell” mantra. He doesn’t have to tell us that Jerry is a bit of a closet nerd–when he’s driving through the US to get from one job to another, the author has Jerry drive slightly out of his way “just so he could say he’d been to Captain James T. Kirk’s home state.” The fact that Jerry named his fighting fish Sushi immediately gives us an idea of what kind of sense of humor he has.

I was having so much fun with this book that I was very disappointed to run into a few annoying issues. First, there’s the stereotypical company flirt at Jerry’s new job, who seriously hits on him, wears skimpy clothing, etc. I guess we’re supposed to not acknowledge the stereotype because she’s also very good at her job? Anyway, after her two male bosses give her a lecture on her behavior and clothing, she suddenly has self-respect and comes to understand that she’s “a person, not a pair of… well, you know.” It’s a bit off-putting. Second, pretty much every single woman falls for Jerry, even his 15-year-old neighbor. I mean, he’s a nice guy, but he’s not all that. He’s definitely a bit of a Mary Sue character. Third, Jerry has problems with his mother for most of the book–actual, legitimate problems–and yet they’re easily (and predictably) solved almost as soon as she knows he’s ill. Fourth, Ana died when she was 16. But the fact of her age is magically okay because she can transform herself to look a few years older? That’s… a little nasty.

Finally, the ending is seriously abrupt. I mean, it reads like the author was up against deadline and didn’t know how to end the story.

I’m really disappointed, because most of the book was very good, but the issues were really annoying ones.

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