Title: The Gathering Storm
Author: Robin Bridges
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series: Katerina Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 386 Pages
ISBN-10: 0385740220 (Random/Delacorte)
ISBN-13: 978-0385740227 (Random/Delacorte)
Reviewed by: Emmy
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?
Quick & Dirty: The politics of Romanov Russia are brought to a new level–the Dark and Light Faerie courts, intertwined with the Imperial family, are threatened by vampires. The dangerous and multi-layered court life is brought to life in this historical paranormal.
Opening Sentence: 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.
Katerina first introduces us to the Imperial Court at a St. Petersburg ball and the world only evolves to become more politically intricate from there. It seems like everyone is a prince or a duke and can claim a long line of royal titles. Thankfully, there’s an author’s note in the beginning that explained the Russian naming system, because I would have been so confused without it. As it is, almost everyone in the royal family is a cousin. Given the complexity of the world and the multiple titles, both paranormal and royal, that she was working with, Bridges did a great job keeping everything straight.
The Light Court has the empress as it’s faerie queen, while the Dark Court’s queen is duchess Miechen. Miechen’s husband Vladimir is next in line to be tsar, making the duchess and empress mortal enemies. But people over the city are being killed by poison and there seems to be no pattern or reason to the deaths. When vampires begin to infest St. Petersburg again and the undead are rising against the tsar’s secret Order of Knights, the courts will have to put aside their differences and find a way to deter an even more dangerous foe.
In comes Katerina. She hides her power of necromancy from the world, but in a faerie court there’s no way to hide her dark aura. After reanimating her mother’s beloved cat at the age of ten Katerina has never used her powers again. They scare her and they’re dangerous–not the raising of a zombie that wants to eat flesh, but the fact that it’s dark magic. After all, they still burn witches in Russia. She wants to save people by being a doctor, not by forcing corpses back to a half life. This necromancy, evil as it is, might be the only thing she can use to save the tsar from his enemies. The royal family begins to reveal secrets Katerina couldn’t have guessed at. Whatever chaos is descending on St. Petersburg, she’s caught up in the middle of it.
The evil that’s sweeping the city is forcing Katerina to make impossible choices. There’s Danilo, the charming crown prince of Montenegro–everything her mother’s always wanted in a suitor. But his sisters have a reputation for being sorceresses, and though Elena is Katerina’s schoolmate, they’re far from friends. She caught Elena trying to place a spell on the tsarevitch (crown prince) and destroyed it before it could have any effect. Elena and her sister’s have a plan for the imperial family and their father is the tsar’s closest ally. Katerina has to find out whom to trust, what’s the truth, and who’s playing her before someone dies from their mischief.
But this caught the attention of George Alexandrovich, the tsarevitch’s younger and more astute brother. George believes Katerina to be evil and she doesn’t dare point the finger at Elena, who might soon be the tsarevitch’s betrothed.
Bridges has woven the world of supernatural and historical Russia together tightly. The fusion of facts and fantasy is cohesive enough that it was easy to suspend reality and fall into this treacherous world. There are so many pieces to the plot to be puzzled together at the end that I wound up being perfectly satisfied with the ending. (Not that I don’t want more. I do, preferably right now.) Bridges did a great job of juggling a large cast of characters that could easily have become overwhelming, but instead became memorable.
The princess’s face was inscrutable as I passed her. “Always remember, Katerina Alexandrovna. No one has allies in this city. There is no one to trust but yourself.”
I found Miechen sitting in her chair, looking a little paler than usual. “Are you alright, Your Imperial Highness? Can I do anything for you?”
She shook her head. “I’m fine. I thought you had left.”
“My aunt left her gloves.” I spotted them on the chair where Zina had been sitting. I hoped the grand duchess did not want to continue with the seance now that Cantacuzene was gone. “Are you quite sure you are well?”
The grand duchess’s smile was frosty. “You are very kind, Katerina Alexandrovna. But the princess was right. There are no allies in this city. It’s every creature for his- or herself. And you will stay alive much longer if you remember that.”
The Katerina Trilogy:
2. The Unfailing Light
FTC Advisory: Random House/Delacorte provided me with a copy of The Gathering Storm. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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