I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Written by Robin Bridges
Published January, 2012 by Delacorte
Provided by: Netgalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Zombies
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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?
Lavish in its descriptions of Imperial Russia, the world of Katerina Alexandrovna is one that anyone with an interest in the country or time period will want to dive into. Readers will be captivated by Robin Bridge’s stunning depictions of real historical figures and places and find themselves caught up in the whirlwind supernatural mystery.
What I loved most about The Gathering Storm was that it made me feel as if I was part of Katerina’s world. From the glittering balls and palacial halls to the icy streets of St. Petersburg, this book made me feel like I was experiencing the story firsthand. While I am not Russian – or have ever visited the country – I felt that Robin Bridges had a perfect, authentic grasp on the customs and practices of the time period. I should also admit that on more than one occasion I got a craving for the sumptuous spreads of foods and delicacies Katerina described!
For some time I’ve held an interest in the Romanov family, but this is the first time I’ve veered away from Revolution-heavy plots that were based on fact. While The Gathering Storm does feature real figures of Russian aristocracy and royalty, I think it’s safe to say that Robin Bridge’s storylines for them are entirely fictional. For instance, the Romanov family and their rule is segregated in Katerina’s story into two courts; light and dark, and heavily influenced by fae, magic and other supernatural forces.
Real personalities, such as the Montenegrin royal family, were depicted as ‘blood-drinkers’ and sorceresses, eager to influence the Russian throne. Robin Bridge’s new twist on these characters persuaded me to check into the history. This caused me to spend quite a bit of time on Wikipedia while I was reading this book, finding out more about the characters mentioned in the story and putting faces to names. I was surprised – and quite frankly impressed – to find that the aforementioned Montenegrins were actually – historically – interested in the black arts and were responsible for introducing Rasputin to Tsar Nicholas II and his wife later in history. I can only give major kudos to Robin for applying ‘real’ evidence in formulating her supernatural tale.
Katerina herself was an enjoyable character, holding the dark and extraordinary ability to raise the dead. I especially enjoyed her relationship with the Grand Duke George – brother to the future Tsar Nicholas II – and I can’t wait to see how their relationship further develops in the next instalment of the trilogy. The other characters (I admit I got a bit confused with who was who initially – with all the similar sounding Russian names!) were also great to read about, and I was happy to discover they weren’t merely cardboard cut-outs that served only to propel Katerina’s story. There are tiny little facets everywhere in The Gathering Storm, ones loaded with secrets and mystery! I want to learn about them all!
This book will keep you guessing. It’s not one of those stories that are too easy to figure out or too easily pushed-aside. There is so much interwoven myth and lore that exists within this story that it’s impossible to guess the resolution straight off the bat. Robin Bridges has successfully created a whole new world for readers to dwell in. 400 pages was daunting at first, but after finishing this book in less than two days, I can safely say that I wished there had been more!
My only qualm with The Gathering Storm was that the final ‘showdown’ ended too quickly, but it wouldn’t be the first book to affect me that way. I have no fear, however, that there are many more twists and turns to come in Katerina’s story, and that the resolution I was yearning for in this book will be presented before the series end.
This is a series that deserves to be a series. Unfortunately I’ve found that many of the series (or soon-to-be series) I’ve read lately could have been minimized to standalone novels, but I believe the world Robin Bridges has masterfully created warrants further exploration. I’m thrilled to be safe in the knowledge that there are two more books to come!
Recommended to: If you have an existing interest in historical reads woven with the supernatural, give this one a shot. Readers partial to Romanov history will also find this to be an interesting journey!