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The Czar: A Tale of the Time of the First Napoleon

By Deborah Alcock
Inheritance Publications

Box 366
Pella, IA 50219

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 and interesting.

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.

Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, March 2011

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