Written by Robin Bridges
Published August, 2013 by Delacorte
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Zombies
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St. Petersburg, Russia, 1890
Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.
Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancé, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina's focus remains on the sword. Russia's fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.
This one was so hard to review. I do love this series, but I had so many high expectations for The Morning Star and they just weren’t met. I had hoped that Robin Bridges would only expand upon the lavish world she had created in both The Gathering Storm and The Unfailing Light, but instead I felt that we were backpedalling in some way all throughout this one.
The bulk of the book is set in Egypt, where Katerina is helpless against the Lich Tsar (now controlling Danilo, the Crown Prince of Montenegro’s body) and his ‘assistant’ Mala. We witness their extremely longwinded quest to find The Morning Star – the key to the Lich Tsar’s success or downfall.
I was left scratching my head through most of their journey. Despite the Tsar’s men being hot on their heels, ‘Danilo’ and Katerina had time to fuss around museums looking at jewellery and holing themselves up in fancy hotels at every turn. When they weren’t clambering their way out of musty old tombs (which were surprisingly still lit with torches inside) they were talking to a mystical sphinx that just happened to be ‘close by’.
I didn’t exactly understand their adventure, which frustrated me to no end and severely impacted on the enjoyment I gained from this book as a whole.
The world I fell in love was absent for the most part – the Light and Dark Court intrigue as well as characters and relationships that had been built up across the two previous books. Elena, the Montenegrin Princess, was barely mentioned despite being a main antagonist in the series. Dariya, Katerina’s best friend, made a brief appearance but we never even found out what happened with her in the end. Alix, who had been a favourite face of mine was practically forgotten after Katerina’s abduction (and even upon her return). I am extremely disappointed we didn’t get to witness the unfolding of Alix and Nicholas’ relationship further.
Instead of gifting us with a satisfying expansion and conclusion of the already existing world, Robin Bridges delivered to us what seemed like another side story. Although the Lich Tsar and his minions were ultimately defeated, this didn’t feel like the conclusion to the story I had fallen in love with.
Katerina and George’s relationship did advance, however, but I felt that their constant desire to sacrifice themselves for one another detracted from what should have been their ‘happy ending’.
I also don’t feel as if Katerina’s gift was properly explained – how did she unwittingly resurrect the souls in the previous two novels? How did she learn to control this? This seemed to be glazed over with a single sentence, with Katerina telling us that the Tibetan doctor had simply helped her. I wanted to witness this growth in her powers, and I wanted to witness that growth in her character. The same thing can be said for how she learnt to guard her thoughts from Danilo, and ultimately the Lich Tsar.
I do believe The Morning Star could have been a more effective if we hadn’t been swept away to a completely new landscape for the majority of the book and Robin Bridges had employed her myriad of existing characters moreso than creating new ones.
The enjoyment I got from this book was not in how it ended, but from the handful of chapters that remained in Russia. Despite this book’s cover being my favourite of the series, I believe that the series’ high point was the second book, The Unfailing Light.
Although all of the ends seemed to be tied up nicely plot-wise, I don’t feel many of the characters got their ending. I feel as if there is still one chapters I’ve left unread. It doesn’t feel right and that’s not something I enjoy feeling when I’ve just finished a series.
Disappointment aside, ‘The Katerina Trilogy’ was a three book series I was happy to be swept away by. Do I feel it was a waste of my time? Not at all. It was an enjoyable escape and great debut series by Robin Bridges. I will eagerly read anything else she decides to set in this world.
Recommended to: If you’ve read the first two books in this series, you can’t stop there. The Morning Light will at least answer some of your questions and bring an end to the Lich Tsar plotline. All in all it was an enjoyable series as a whole.