There are no spoilers in this book review.
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?
This is really an alternate history or historical fantasy. The author simply took Russian legends, myths, and fairytales and said “wait, what if all of these were real? And what if it was set during the Industrial period?” Its the time of Faberge and Tchaikowsky and Tostoy, where Russia is becoming a player on the European scene, and culture flows freely between Moscow and the west.
It was a breath of fresh air, Russian folk lore is so different than the England centric mindset that most books are written in, and it played so well into the changes that were happening. It wasn’t very much earlier that Russia was completely isolated from the outside world.
I think my one complaint is how confusing things could get. I kept forgetting who was related to whom, and what girl went with which family, and how many kinds of “creatures” there were, and who had what power. It was written by someone who seemed to know a lot about what she was writing about, but unfortunately I think sometimes she also forgot that her readers are not as knowledgeable.
There were a couple of cringe worthy moments, some things that just could not have happened that way, and a lot of dumb luck on the characters part, but overall its good. Even the love triangle wasn’t that bad, although, it was a bit predictable (aren’t they all?) and played on the “bad boys as sexy” stereotype.
Katerina: I’ve seen complaints that she was ‘boring’ and, for the most part, I disagree. She had her moments, and she’s not the strongest main character that was ever written (but she’s a whole lot better than most!)
Pyotr: I’m gonna be real, the only reason I remembered Katerina’s brother’s name was because its one letter away from the name of my favorite X-Man (Piotr Rasputin). He wasn’t very memorable, but he care deeply about his sister.
Alix: There’s a plot twist with her that I won’t spoil, but I’m not suer what I think about it. She didn’t show up as a character after we heard about the twist, so I can’t wait to see where its taken in book two.
Prince Danilo: My opinion of him is that he reminds me of a beetle and not in a good way. I would certainly not describe him as “dashing,” perhaps “slimy” would be more apt.
George Alexandrovich: I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this character. He’s stubborn (in his defense, he cares about his country) and rude to Katerina at times, but then again, he does help her (and then do a complete personality flop and fall madly in love with her).
Its a good book, and I really did love it. As soon as I finished it, at about 1am mind, I put the next book in the series on hold at the library (thankfully there’s no waiting list).
If you like historical fiction or fantasy – or the animated Anastasia film – I think you’ll really love The Gathering Storm.