Maria constantly sees two different versions of her father and struggles to figure out who the man really is-Rasputin the holy man and healer whom people cling to for these abilities or a drunk who uses his fame to do whatever he pleases. Maria is also trying to figure out the mysterious Sasha, a boy she met on a boat who claims he's a friend but has also shown he can be an enemy. The revolution bubbles in the background of this novel as the people become more discontented and disillusioned and the fall of the Romanov dynasty is imminent. Maria is there to witness it all, even the "real" way her father died.
I liked this book but not as much as The Kitchen Boy. When you are seeing everything through the eyes of just one character that is where the focus is-with what that character is feeling and experiencing and as a result some of the fascinating history of this time period was missed. You only see glimpses of the ongoing revolution as Maria sees them and I never got a true sense of what was going on at that time other than the people (and the Grand Dukes) were unhappy at the favor he held with the royal family and his life was in danger. I thought the explanation of Rasputin's death and why it was portrayed the way it was in history was interesting. As with Kitchen Boy, there is the surprise twist at the end which the author seems to excel at but it just didn't have the WOW for me that KB's ending did.
For those interested in more about Rasputin, I recommend the DVD of Histories Mysteries: The True Story of Rasputin. I watched this on the history channel when it first came out and it gave me a better idea of who he was which helped when I read this book.
If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library