Book Reviews

Review: “The Unfailing Light,” Robin Bridges

May 15, 2014
Review: “The Unfailing Light,” Robin BridgesThe Unfailing Lightby Robin Bridges
Series: The Katerina Trilogy #2
Published by Delacorte on October, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Zombies
Pages: 320

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive.

So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains.

But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

The Unfailing Light brings readers back into the world of Katerina and her struggles against the Light and Dark Courts of Imperial Russia. A great historical read, I found that Robin Bridges had a better handle on her series and lore this time around. With all the elements you could hope for in a historical supernatural/fantasy read, ‘The Katerina Trilogy’ is one I highly recommend.

In stark contrast to The Gathering Storm, this book takes place (for the most part) in the summer. We are able to venture with Katerina and her cousin to the Crimea and experience summertime holidaying with the Russian elite. It is here that Katerina learns darker secrets to do with the chilling Lich Tsar and learns that her love, Archduke George, must begin his training as Koldun.

While I do love Katiya and George as a couple, I feel that their relationship has taken leaps and bounds too quickly. Katerina is quick to refer to him as her ‘lovely boy’ and proclaim that she will ‘never love another’. It didn’t seem so long ago that she loathed him and I find it hard to compute that their undeniable love for one another had come about so suddenly. I would have preferred their relationship to continue as a slow burn, as it had in The Gathering Storm.

Nevertheless, George’s Koldun training made for an interesting plotline. I was so glad to see him become more powerful – and be able to protect Katerina more expertly, as the dangers she faces are steadily growing. I particularly enjoyed his showdown with the Montenegrin Crown Prince, Danilo, who still has a frightening hold on our heroine after their ritual in the previous book.

Katerina, for the most part, is an enjoyable narrator though I do feel that we readers are always two steps ahead of her. I, and I’m sure a lot of other readers, had figured out the secret of Princess Alix and the white wolf eons before Katerina had.

Alix is an interesting side character, and one we get to see more of in The Unfailing Light, as she begins to attend The Smolny Institute alongside Katerina and Elena. I am eager to learn more about her supernatural gift – the requirement of the red ribbon – as well as see her relationship with Tsarevitch Nicholas grow. It’s a bittersweet knowledge, though, knowing the historical outcome of their relationship. We know that they will have a happy life together, but we also know how terribly it will end with the Russian Revolution.

The fact that Robin Bridges can weave her story so seamlessly alongside real Russian history is a favourite aspect of mine. As with my first read of The Gathering Storm back in 2011, I am itching to find out more about these real historical figures. It is clear once again that Robin Bridges has done her research on these characters. I couldn’t be in any more in awe!

The Unfailing Light has a lot to do with the ghost of Smolny, a new element to the series that I felt was quite contained to this book only. It was a side plot that allowed us to be introduced to new characters, relationships and see existing ones grow. Although we had sort of been tipped off by the prologue, I was kept guessing as the story advanced and wondered how it all fit together.

I had to re-read The Gathering Storm, as it had been at least two years since I read it on its debut. Back in 2011, I rated it a solid 5 stars. It’s amazing how quickly your tastes and opinions can change, because although I did enjoy it upon re-reading it, I would have given it a slightly lower rating. There were a few issues that I had with the book this time around, such as being confused by the many plots and lore and the fact that I couldn’t quite get as attached to the characters I had done upon my first reading. I don’t believe on changing my reviews or ratings, however, so it will stay as it is.

I am so glad I read the books back to back (and I will continue to do so with the third and final book, The Morning Star) as I was able to see how much better a handle Robin Bridges had on her characters, lore and series as a whole with The Unfailing Light. I DO believe that this book was better than the first in that regard and I found that I enjoyed this story arc a lot more, too. I hold firm to my belief that this series could gain a lot from including a family tree/glossary in the back of the books as a handy reference. There are simply too many characters and alliances to keep track of!

The series can only go up from here. I am eager to begin the final chapter! There are so many questions left unanswered (and to be honest, I just want to see the Montenegrin royal family be thwarted once and for all!) I can’t imagine how Katerina is going to deal with everything she has on her plate.

Recommended to: If you loved The Gathering Storm, you’ll adore The Unfailing Light. I highly recommend this series to fans of historical fiction mixed with a heavy supernatural/fantasy plot.

About Robin Bridges

By day, Robin is a mild-mannered writer of fantasy and paranormal fiction for young adults. By night, she is a pediatric nurse. Robin lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband, one teenager, and two slobbery mastiffs.

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