Guys. GUYS. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Only two weeks into the new year and already I’m calling one of my top reads. You know you’ve found something incredible when you spend every extra moment reading, thinking, breathing a book.
Title: The Gathering Storm (Katerina Alexandrovna #1)
Author: Robin Bridges
Summary: 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?
Pub. Date: January, 2011
I’ve stopped and started writing this review so many times since finishing the book. I’ve paced back and forth all over the room and have burnt my tongue on countless cups of tea all the while staring at a blank screen and trying to think of the right words to say. This definitely is not a “meh, sure, it was pretty good” book. Not by a long shot. This book was, in a word, phenomenal.
I will admit that, before beginning the book, I was slightly biased. I have a huge interest in the Romanovs & Tsarist Russia, and given the period this book takes place, I knew I’d enjoy it at least somewhat. I didn’t realize just how much I’d enjoy it, however.
Our family tree has roots and branches reaching all across Europe, from France to Russia, from Denmark to Greece, and in several transient and minute kingdoms and principalities in between. This tree is tangled with all the rest of Europe’s royalty, and like many in that forest, my family tree is poisoned with a dark evil.
From the very first paragraph I was sucked in. I love the imagery those two sentences bring. And you know some shit is about to go down.
It was Friday afternoon and our lessons had been canceled at the Smolny Institute so everyone could prepare for the ball. Because dressing up like a doll was much more important than studying literature or learning arithmetic.
I. Loved. Katerina. Despite being born into a life of endless balls and socializing with royalty, she is determined to become a doctor. No, she doesn’t want a hospital built in her honor, she wants to be the one discovering cures and healing wounds. She’s so unlike the horde of overly cliche YA heroines we see today: she’s funny and sarcastic and is so determined to reach her goals (women doctors were virtually unheard of in the world at that time – and were even outlawed in Russia – yet she still sent out multiple applications to universities to study medicine). The relationship she shared with her family (her father in particular) was a joy to read and such a breath of fresh air. She’s extremely close with her cousin Dariya and I loved the scenes they shared.
Why must ghosts always be so ambiguous?
Katerina has a deep, dark secret. She has the ability to raise the dead. Russia at this point in history was all about the occult and mysticism (oh, hello, Rasputin). In high society, holding seances and consulting tarot cards was a popular hobby (even Katerina’s mother took to reading her cards). Even though the paranormal was in vogue, Katerina despises her “gift” and made a promise to herself to never use her abilities.
However. And there’s always a however. Katerina winds up reviving a moth at a ball one night in order to save a member of the imperial family. Immediately certain characters realize what she truly is: a necromancer.
There was secret knowledge to uncover in science. All romances ended exactly the same way: a girl realized the surly boy she had hated all along was the only person in the universe who could complete her soul. I did not believe for a minute that my soul could be completed by some surly boy.
Another aspect of The Gathering Storm that sets it apart from other YA series is the romance. You won’t find any instalove here! And while the romance is given its time in the spotlight, the overall plot is more important. ♥ And I loved that. This is potentially spoiler-y, but there isn’t a love triangle (YAY!). The buildup is perfect. There’s certainly that spark of attraction when the two first meet, but they don’t hit it off. At all. Overtime, however… so wonderful. & I was so, so, so conflicted at the end! They acknowledge their feelings for one another, share a single kiss (♥♥ oh how I squealed like a schoolgirl), and that’s it for now.
Especially if she had seen the way Nicholas Alexandrovich looked at Princess Alix.
Oh my gosh, I LOVED all the cutesy cuteness that was Nicholas & Alix. The Gathering Storm shows the beginning of their romance and ♥~ Even though royal marriages were held mainly as a way of securing power or land, these two really loved and adored one another and I think that is so wonderful. (There’s a book coming out on the 17th that I’m pretty excited about: Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina)
I highly suggest reading The Gathering Storm either with notebook in hand or with Wikipedia open. There are so many buildings, people, and events mentioned that I felt compelled to research.
The Gathering Storm was a fantastic debut and I absolutely cannot wait for more!
Xenia believed in love. George was old enough to understand that tsarevitchs were not allowed to marry for love. And neither were most grand dukes.
“Katerina, I am sure you handled the bandages expertly, buy you cannot practice medicine on the tsar’s son!”
An afternoon spent solving quadratic equations would have been infinitely more pleasant. I smelled like a salad.