The Czar is the closest thing to a nonfiction novel
I have ever read! Set in the early nineteenth century, the time
of Napoleon's reign in France, the saga opens in the sleepy Russian
village of Nicolofsky. Young and arrogant Ivan Ivanovitch is introduced
as a pampered resident who does little, if anything, to earn his
keep. We later learn that Ivan is an orphaned Russian prince when
he is abruptly swept away from his foster family in order to learn
how to be a prince and a soldier. During this time, Russia is ruled
by the Czar Alexander, a hero to Ivan since he saw the great Czar
bring a carpenter back to life.
The character of Frenchman Henri de Talmont is used to bring to
life the French invasion of Russia. The differences between leaders
Napoleon and Czar Alexander are stark, from lifestyle to religion
to basic character. Czar Alexander's Christian walk is well documented
and is relevant to world politics today. The French and Russian
people find they have commonalities in their struggle for deciding
who their king shall be.
The book uses many footnotes to provide or expand on sources of
information or to explain an event or a person in context. Black-and-white
copies of intricate drawings depicting scenes in the book are sophisticated
The Czar is intended for an advanced reading audience
beginning in upper junior high school. It is a good complement
to studies of world history, Christian history, and government.
It could also be used for a literature study.
Pros: Studying Russian history wasn't something on the
educational radar for me or my children. However, after reading The
Czar, I am inspired to learn even more about the Christ-following
Russian leader, Alexander. It is a book that I plan to incorporate
into world history for my soon-to-be high schooler.
Cons: It took a concentrated effort to keep reading
the book through the first several chapters. It is rich in detail,
for sure, but I felt lost for a while as far as the story line
goes, thinking I had missed something. However, it turns out it
was well worth the dedication. Another challenge for me was the
use of French phrases sprinkled into the text without translation
by footnote or otherwise. I took three years of French in high
school, but that was long ago!
The Czar was like a rich dessert. I couldn't truly appreciate
it by going through it quickly. It was worth the time and effort
it took to read it slowly and purposefully.