This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
This story initially sounded interesting, but far from being a thriller as the blurb claims, it was slow-moving and had endless, tedious flashbacks which I took to skipping in short order because they were so boring and pointless. They had, from what I could see before I began skipping them, no bearing on the actual story, and served only to interrupt it with annoying regularity.
So, every few screens I would read how this girl would reassert her need to focus on finding her sister Phoebe and rescuing her from the asylum, but then she would predictably meander back to the la-la land of asylum minutiae, behaviors, and politics, rather than focus on how to find which ward Phoebe was in so she could contact her. When she wasn't lost in that, she was lost in the past. It quickly became tediously repetitive. Had Yoda been a doctor there he would have diagnosed her as "Never her mind on where she was; what she was doing."
Flashbacks, in my experience, are rarely contributory. I just think they represent poor writing and they also unnecessarily interrupt the story. There are better ways of referencing past events than simply stopping the story and irritating the reader with yet another info dump, especially if it's irrelevant which, in this case, was consistently true. The flashbacks did not relate to the current story at all. All they 'contributed' was to tell an irrelevant backstory of this girl's relationship with her sister and her fiancé and this other guy she had the hots for, so clichéd love triangle. Barf. And this wasn't the story that was advertised! It was certainly not the story I wanted to read.
Sometimes it began to sound like this girl was herself an unreliable narrator because in the current story she was dissing her fiancé, whereas in the backstory she seemed less antagonistic, but it was b-o-r-i-n-g, which is why I quit reading them. I never felt like I needed to go back and read any of the flashbacks to understand what was happening in the present so what was the point? The current story and the flashbacks seemed to be completely separate stories, and at no time in the current story did she ever refer back to anything that happened in the past.
In another instance of her schizophrenia, I read that on the one hand that "If I confessed the whole truth, I’d be sent back to my parents quick as a wink," and on the other, a mere few lines later she claims, "And if I didn’t do something drastic, all my days would be like this, for all the time to come." I'm sorry? Either she can get out of the asylum by confessing or she's stuck there no matter what! It can't simultaneously be both. The fact that she thinks it can be calls her own sanity into question!
There was another point where I began to think she truly was insane and this story about her going there to rescue her sister was something she made up to 'rationalize' her presence in the asylum. It crossed my mind is that her understanding of why her older sister was there was in error - that her sister had been put there because her fiancé had been having a relationship with her or something. But I honestly didn't care enough at that point about either of these possibilities to continue reading, and I DNF'd it at around the fifty percent mark.
The reason for this was that the current story wasn't much better than the flashbacks, quite honestly. When she found the room her sister was supposedly in, and snuck in to visit, the woman in there was not her sister, but some Russian woman who was using her sister's name. After an agonizing few pages with flashbacks, she finally figured out that her sister and this woman had swapped places. Then - and how she made this insane leap I do not know - she decided this woman had to be one of the Romanov family, so the story further descended into inanity and I gave up on it, having zero confidence that it would ever go anywhere interesting.
I wish the author all the best in her career, but I cannot in good faith commend this one based on the fifty percent of it I could stand to read. And BTW, the Romanovs are all accounted for: they all died in the end.