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Publisher's Summary

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world's surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of 20 tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore's gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence, and wild extravagance, with a global cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries, and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy and Pushkin to Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria, and Lenin.

To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: Six of the last 12 tsars were murdered. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs, and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband (who was murdered soon afterward), enjoyed affairs with a series of young male favorites, conquered Ukraine, and fascinated Europe. Paul I was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who in turn faced Napoleon's invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts, and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever composed by a ruler. The Romanovs climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas II and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war, and revolution - and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.

Dazzlingly entertaining and beautifully written from start to finish, The Romanovs brings these monarchs - male and female, great and flawed, their families and courts - blazingly to life. Drawing on new archival research, Montefiore delivers an enthralling epic of triumph and tragedy, love and murder, encompassing the seminal years 1812, 1914, and 1917, that is both a universal study of power and a portrait of an empire that helps define Russia today.

©2016 Simon Sebag Montefiore (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In another great work of history, Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem, tells the bloody and decadent stories of the 20 tsars and tsarinas of Russia's last imperial dynasty. The Romanovs is like 20 gripping novels in one." [ Sunday Express (London)]
"Simon Sebag Montefiore's The Romanovs is epic history on the grandest scale...A story of conspiracy, drunken coups, assassination, torture, impaling, breaking on the wheel, lethal floggings with the knout, sexual and alcoholic excess, charlatans and pretenders, flamboyant wealth based on a grinding serfdom, and, not surprisingly, a vicious cycle of repression and revolt. Game of Thrones seems like the proverbial vicar's tea party in comparison.... Reading Montefiore's excellent account, it is hard to imagine how the monarchy could ever have survived under their catastrophic leadership." (Antony Beevor, Financial Times)
"An impressive book that combines rigorous research with exquisite prose." [Gerard de Groot, The Times (London)]

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • William
  • WYNNEWOOD, PA, United States
  • 06-16-16

Scholarly but gripping

This is a detailed history of the Romanov dynasty, tsar by tsarina by tsar, and it is utterly fascinating. It is necessarily a history of Russia over 300 years, and it sheds light on some of the current disputes between Russia and the West, particularly on Crimea. The narration is simply superb. One of the best readers of the dozens that I have heard, and he knows how to pronounce the names! Highly recommended.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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A tapestry of words

This very well narrated book weaves 300 + years of Czarism into a tapestry that tells one story. It takes all the bits and pieces you may have already known about Czarist Russia and creates a seamless saga, set against what was happening in the rest of the world a the time. It also explains how neo Czar Vladimir Putin's rise to power was inevitable in a country that has known only authoritarian rule for 400 years, with the brief exception of a short experiment with democracy in the 1990s.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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A Sweeping Russian Epic

Plunge head first into the rapidly flowing stream of Russian history, viewed through the prism of one dynastic ruling family. There is never a dull moment as the author links the first Romanov to the last. The history is exhilarating in the telling.

The narrator affects a dry, somewhat disinterested tone -- like a senior level diplomatic envoy relating the ongoing intrigues at court to his superiors at the home office.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic!

Got a bit tedious in spots....but sticking with it was worth it an informative entertaining history about the Romanovs.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Amazing

Great organization to the work entirety and superior performance by narrator. Certainly a long haul but at no point tedious, enthralling from start to finish. This in depth recount allows for a more informed view of modern Russia and understanding of the powerful forces of an entire continent's past.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Captivating and educational

Perfect on all fronts. Use of personal diaries and other sources makes this extremely interesting and makes you feel like you know the characters. Highly recommend.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Glorious and tragic

Just finished this magnificent tome and enjoyed every bit of it. It is a most comprehensive documentation of the glorious and tragic 305 year epoch that was the Romanov dynasty.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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amazing narrative and thoughtfully laid

I listened intently like a thrill novel but to a historical narrative.i would recommend for anyone interested in historical perspective.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Too narrow and deep

The most literal interpretation of a Romanov bio, this book indulges every petty detail about conversations every Romanov had every day and introduces an unintelligible blurr of other figures who weave in and out of stories only insofar as they pertain to direct interaction with the czars. By contrast, there is little or no information or analysis of any of the myriad of historical events during this period, except for what the romanovs wrote and discussed at the time. It's hard to be critical of an author for taking their mandate so literally, but I would have enjoyed it more if they had gone into more depth on (say) the brusslov campaign in Wwi because of its historical significance to the overall story, and less detail on what Michael Romanov had for breakfast on January 27th.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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A great chronicle.

Where does The Romanovs rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best history books about Russia.

What other book might you compare The Romanovs to and why?

None to compare come to mind at the moment.

What about Simon Beale’s performance did you like?

I'd say, everything, even if I hadn't heard his narration before.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The life and death of a dynasty.

Any additional comments?

A must-have for any fans of history, or of Russian history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful