In the years before the Bolsheviks seized the city, St. Petersburg was a playground in the throes of a kind of decadence – determined, desperate – that presages collapse. As if the aristocracy knew apocalypse was imminent and, also knowing there was nothing to prevent its arrival, stayed up drinking and dancing and inhaling cocaine when they could get their hands on any, distracting themselves by whatever means they found. Spending money in a frenzy of champagne, caviar, jewels, gowns. On parties with full orchestras, themed costume balls excusing all manner of ostentation: hostesses riding through ballrooms on gilded elephants, servants dressed up like gondoliers or Vikings or pharaohs. p. 180I loved Masha’s voice, but unfortunately the disjointed, asynchronous narrative was not as successful for me. The story jumps from Rasputin’s early life to the family’s time in St. Petersburg to Siberian folk wisdom to Masha’s exile from Russian rather incoherently at times, so that I often didn’t have a handle on the plot. I cared about the characters, but in fits and starts. I also found the “coming of age” portions of the book between Aloysha and Masha squirm-inducing. They seemed to belong more in a YA title than in this one – especially because they were accompanied by high-end philosophical thought on the nature of virtue and morality. Still, the story was interesting and fast-paced, and it made me rethink what I knew about Rasputin and the Romanovs, so I would highly recommend it to lovers of historical fiction, especially those with an interest in imperial Russia. This title counts toward the Historical Fiction 2012 Challenge, which seems to be the only one I’m tearing up so far this year. Thanks to Historical Tapestry for hosting! I do have some additional books to review, though, so I’m hoping to start really making progress on my reading goals for the year! I read this book as part of a TLC book tour, and received a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. For other opinions, check out the links here. In 140 characters or less:The beginning of adulthood and the end of the world from a Rasputin's perspective.