The Bronze Horseman, Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons
Release Date: September 2009 (orig. 2000) | July 2010 (orig. January 2003) | June 2011 (orig. 2006)
Publisher: HarperCollins | William Morrow
Pages: 810 pages | 559 pages | 752 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
Series: The Bronze Horseman #1-3
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary of The Bronze Horseman (from Goodreads)
The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their bother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler's armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.
Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander's impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects, a secret as devastating as the war itself, as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.
Thoughts on The Bronze Horseman (Spoiler Free!)
I've already written a bit on my love for The Bronze Horseman in my The Favorite Factor: Giveaway Edition post. I first heard about this book when Lorren reviewed it and later bought the Kindle copy when it was on sale. For some reason, I just let it sit around unread. When Kelly started book pushing it, I figured it was time that I finally give this book a shot. I started it on a day when I didn't have work because of snow... and finished it that evening. Yep, I read all 810 pages in one day. It was EPIC!
I'm planning on talking about this book (and the series overall) in a new review feature that I'm working on with Kelly, but I thought it was still worth writing up my brief thoughts on this series. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I was already predisposed to like this book. I haven't read much set in Russia, and I really loved learning about what the country experienced during WWII. Most of the fiction I've read during that time period is set in countries like Germany / England / France, so it was nice to read about it from a new setting.
There was so much I loved about this book - the characters who are unlikeable and selfish at times but also loyal and loving, the harsh reality of the setting, the constant struggle to survive, the descriptiveness of the writing, and the emotions this story evoked. But it's also not the book for everyone. Simons revels in descriptions, in angst, in painful barriers that keep the couple apart. I actually think you'll be able to tell early on in the story if this book will work for you. If you're bored in the beginning, you're probably not going to love the rest of it.
All that being said, I truly debated on how to rate this one. I'd expected to give it my highest rating, but I've really it's not actually going to fall into that category. I read this book while texting Kelly the whole time, and I think I would have been more critical of certain things in it if I was reading it on my own. For example, there's a section of this book that I basically skipped over because of its sexual content. I don't personally like when that is a large part of a book, and it's the one thing I felt took up way too many pages without contributing much at all to the actual plot in this book.
However, I did fall in love with this story while I was reading it! There's a lot of drama, but I was totally hooked the entire time. It was the perfect read to pass a snowy day.
Thoughts on Tatiana and Alexander (Spoiler Free!)
Once you've finished The Bronze Horseman, you'll be racing to read book two as soon as possible! Well, you will if you loved the first book. And you'll be pleased to know that this is a wonderful companion that I do recommend!
This book picks up after the ending of The Bronze Horseman, which I promise not to spoil for you. So, what do you need to know about book two? Well, Tatiana and Alexandra is more Alexander's story than Tatiana's (although she does have her own part). There are flashbacks to his life growing up, which I annoyed me at first (I just wanted to get back to the story at hand) but ultimately added depth to his character. I liked being able to learn more about him and find out who he was, what mattered to him, etc. It was nice to see him on his own - and not just through Tatiana's eyes!
There was a lot less drama and angst in this book, and more of a focus on the historical fiction elements. It felt more focused and less indulgent, which I appreciated since there were a few too many moments in the first book that just didn't contribute to the overall story or plot. The only thing that annoyed me in this one? There was a part of this book that just re-hashed the events of the first book. In something this long, that felt out-of-place and frustrating since I'd just finished The Bronze Horseman. As much as I loved it, I didn't need to read about it all over again.
The ending to Tatiana and Alexander was perfect! It was resolved and hopeful, which is a great after how much heartache takes place in its pages. I recommend concluding this series with this book because I don't recommend the final book at all. It was a terrible ending for a series I really loved up to that point, so I'm happy to say that you can happily end here without any cliffhangers or unresolved story lines.
Thoughts on The Summer Garden (Spoiler Free!)
Okay, I've got to be completely honest: I absolutely hated this book. And I mean passionately hated. I cannot think of a worse series ending, and I would not have continued reading this book if I hadn't been reading it with Kelly. Y'all, it was bad... like possibly one of the worst books I've ever read levels of horrible.
After researching a little online, Kelly and I discovered that Simons originally intended for the series to be two books and included an epilogue in Tatiana and Alexandra (which was previously titled The Bridge to Holy Cross). I'm not sure why Simons decided to continue with the series, but I think it's so unfortunate that she did choose to do so with this book as her ending.
The Summer Garden takes everything you've come to know and love about the characters... and abolishes it. The characters become the worst versions of themselves: selfish, hateful, mean, cold, abusive and completely disconnected from one another. I am, truthfully, astonished at the number of five-star reviews this book has received. I wasn't rooting for these characters at any point in time because I was too busy being completely disgusted by them. I think you can have beloved characters make mistakes if you're then able to redeem them, but that didn't happen in this book. Actions were justified, excuses made, things overlooked... it was almost painful for me to read this book because I was so angry about what was happening. I realize I haven't written anything about what does happen, but that's because I don't even want to revisit it or try to explain how miserable this was to read.
This book glorifies a relationship that is the complete opposite of loving or healthy. There is not a single part of me that would hand someone this book and call it a love story. A train wreck? Sure. But a love story? HELL NO. I could rant FOR DAYS about all the things I disliked in this book and how confused I am by how it's rated as favorably as the first two books. Frankly, I'm pissed that it even says "A Love Story" on the cover.
Let me rant for a second: love is not just an emotion but an action, too. Feelings can change, shift and sway... they aren't the basis for real love. Real, true love that deserves to be celebrated is seen in actions. And there is a reason people say actions speak louder than words. The kind of love that I want to celebrate is when it's sacrificial and willing to put someone else's needs first. This book made me so mad because I hate that anyone would read this and would call it "love." What an insult to that word!
All of that being said, I do not recommend this book. Not even a little bit. Stop after book two!