The Crown and The Crucible

Written by Judith Pella Michael Phillips
Review by Rachel A Hyde

Set in the last years of the 19th century, these four books (The Crown and the Crucible,  A House Divided, Travail and Triumph, and Heirs of the Motherland) form a sweeping saga of Russia before the Revolution that reads like a cross between War & Peace and Dr Zhivago. It was a time of great unrest and war. At its heart is a romance between a prince and a peasant girl, and a princess and a reckless soldier. Replete with descriptions of snowy villages, the Winter Palace, fashionable life in St Petersburg and grim prisons, there is certainly plenty of it – these are the first four of a seven-book set – but it is never boring.

It is also an inspirational saga, just like the Sigmund Brouwer western mysteries reviewed elsewhere in this issue. I hadn’t read any inspirational fiction before I picked up the first of these novels, and as I am not religious myself wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got wasn’t a sermon but a thumping good story replete with all the things you would expect in a novel about Russia in the late 19th century – to say more would perhaps spoil the story. I won’t say you can imagine what it is going to be about, because this makes it sound predictable (and perhaps it is), but historically the series is very well researched and highly entertaining.

I personally enjoyed the added dimension of religion, for it reminded me that in the past religion filled most aspects of people’s lives. I can thoroughly recommend all four of these – and presumably the other three as well!