Book Review: The Ice Swan (ARC)

Expected publication: July 6th 2021

Author: J’nell Ciesielski

Amid the violent last days of the glittering Russian monarchy, a princess on the run finds her heart where she least expects it.

1917, Petrograd. Fleeing the murderous flames of the Russian Revolution, Princess Svetlana Dalsky hopes to find safety in Paris with her mother and sister. But the city is buckling under the weight of the Great War, and the Bolsheviks will not rest until they have erased every Russian aristocrat from memory. Svetlana and her family are forced into hiding in Paris’s underbelly, with little to their name but the jewels they sewed into their corsets before their terrifying escape.

Born the second son of a Scottish duke, the only title Wynn MacCallan cares for is that of surgeon. Putting his talents with a scalpel to good use in the hospitals in Paris, Wynn pushes the boundaries of medical science to give his patients the best care possible. After treating Svetlana for a minor injury, he is pulled into a world of decaying imperial glitter. Intrigued by this mysterious, cold, and beautiful woman, Wynn follows Svetlana to an underground Russian club where drink, dance, and questionable dealings collide on bubbles of vodka.

Out of money and options, Svetlana agrees to a marriage of convenience with the handsome and brilliant Wynn, who will protect her and pay off her family’s debts. It’s the right thing for a good man to do, but Wynn cannot help hoping the marriage will turn into one of true affection. When Wynn’s life takes an unexpected turn, so does Svetlana’s—and soon Paris becomes as dangerous as Petrograd. And as the Bolsheviks chase them to Scotland, Wynn and Svetlana begin to wonder if they will ever be able to outrun the love they are beginning to feel for one another.

I absolutely loved The Ice Swan, as it was incredibly intriguing with a captivating plot and excellent characters! This novel transports the reader to 1917 where the Russian Revolution is taking place with the Bolsheviks/Reds taking over along with the Great War involving multiple countries. The story begins in Paris where the reader gets a firsthand look at all of the effects from the two wars and how people from around the world gather together in a central place, just hoping to survive.

Princess Svetlana Dalsky, her mother Princess Ana, and her younger sister, Princess Marina have fled Russia after the Bolsheviks attacked. They go to the city of Paris, which is full of refugees from around the Europe. Since accommodation is scarce and they cannot reveal their identities, they take refuse in a church basement. Ana is having the most difficult time adjusting to the change, as she wants to return to the life of luxury that she became accustomed. She lives in a semi-state of denial where she does not understand why she cannot have the comforts and foods that she wants. Svetlana lives in a state of constant fear as she knows that just because they are in Paris, does not mean that her and her family are safe. One day she injures her leg and ends up encountering Wynn, a doctor, and the two of them become entangled in each other’s stories.

Edwynn (“Wynn”) MacCallan is the second son of a Scottish Duke, who does not wish to be involved in those duties in favor of medicine. He is an incredibly gifted surgeon specializing in cardiology. After meeting Svetlana, he becomes intrigued by her and longs to help her any way that he can. On the medical side, Wynn longs to research and find improved methods to help the ever-increasing patients that seem to pile up as there are more that need help than those that can provide care. The medical side of the story was incredibly interesting as it is amazing how far medicine has come, including differences in surgical methods. Wynn was a very interesting character and I loved his three journeys as a character. He not only has his medical side, which has many complications, he has his two lives of being from a noble family and working in medicine, and then he has his growing feelings for the closed-off Svetlana.

The story moves at a decent pace and the wording choices and structure fit the story. It felt modern in its ability to be understood, but it did not feel out of place. There is just enough intensity to portray the many dangers that all the characters were going through while also slowing down to give them time to shine. The characters themselves were amazing as Wynn is just a very lovable character that you root for from the beginning. Sventlana is very closed off due to her culture and circumstances, but she slowly opens up the more she begins to trust those around her. My favorite character was Leonid Sheremetev! He is saved by Wynn after receiving a gunshot wound and meets Svetlana at a gathering. He was a very unexpected character as I did not expect to care about him. I rooted for him no matter which side he was on as there were qualities about his character that I loved.  Another that stood out was Wynn’s doctor friend and colleague, Gerard, as he was an excellent partner for Wynn and I would love an entire story with him as the center.

Overall, the mix of cultures within this story was amazing as you have some traditions from Scotland and Russia presented in the pages.  There are so many dangers in this novel as you have the Russian Revolution, the Great War, and the Influenza epidemic all co-mingling. I commend the author for the balance within the story as everything was given just enough focus and was seamlessly woven together. There is a romance at the heart of this novel, but it is placed with an intricate story, so even those who are not fans of romance stories would find it enjoyable. Each character, including the side ones, all have their own histories to work through in order to find a happy future and I love how everything came together in the end. It felt like a complete tale and I would easily read more from this author!

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Ice Swan (ARC)

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