[Smith's] balanced, impeccably researched book is a revelation, as richly detailed and engrossing as any novel ... Smith brings forth an image of the human Rasputin — still uncertain, still inconclusive, but free of obvious falsehoods — slowly, as if freeing a sculpture from a block of stone ... His portrait of a spectacularly incompetent royal couple, crippled by the weight of responsibility and the agony of watching their only son succumb to haemophilia, inspires both sympathy and frustration...Smith’s portrait of Rasputin himself is even more nuanced.
[Smith's] scrupulous, insightful and thorough study will surely be the definitive account of one of the most controversial personalities of Russian (and European) history ... Mr. Smith’s research busts various Rasputin myths through a careful analysis of contemporary sources and a meticulous attention to the archives ... All of this Mr. Smith presents lucidly, vividly and sympathetically. The main drawbacks of Rasputin are its length and detail. A dramatic personae at the beginning of the book might have aided navigation.
...if Smith’s examination of these stories is not new, it is the most exhaustive, based on research in many archives and delivering the final word on every scrap of evidence in newspapers and memoirs. The result is a book that is overlong, overcrowded with names and details, serious and earnest (there are few jokes), but a valuable corrective to the more sensational and fanciful biographies available in English ... Smith does not discuss the failure of the monarchy to control its public image (or even recognize that it might have been a problem). But he describes well the revolutionary atmosphere created by the spread of these rumors in 1916.
Tackling this accepted story is no easy task, but Smith does a remarkable job by drawing on a wealth of research revealing 'how the myth of Rasputin was created.' Under Smith’s probing eye, archives yield up impressive detail and previously unknown accounts that place Rasputin’s life in a new, more realistic context ... Smith demolishes [bizare stories] through impeccable research.
It is to Mr. Smith’s credit that even in debunking so many of the most colorful myths — and at Tolstoyan length — he has not written a dull book. Only occasionally does he bog down in academic quibbles with previous biographers or tortured reasoning ... Mr. Smith can seem too forgiving of his subject at times. He explains away behavior that, even if exaggerated, was nonetheless horrendous, including accusations of rape.
Smith meticulously examines those stories for veracity ... Smith relied heavily on primary sources: personal letters, government documents and police and press reports. The result is detailed and engaging.