Saturday, March 17, 2012
The Gathering Storm, by Robin Bridges
- The Katerina Trilogy #1
Release date: January 10th 2012
Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical Fiction (YA)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Links: Goodreads, Amazon
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?
I honestly couldn't believe The Gathering Storm was a debut. Robin Bridges writes so wonderfully it's impossible not to wonder, how could this be her first novel? But yes, it is, and this fact only makes me respect Mrs. Bridges that much more. I began reading her book with hesitant eyes and a critical mind, ready to identify a mistake or plot hole. I found none.
It's impossible to write here everything that pleased me in this book. The setting was adorable. I love Russian stories, especially about the Romanovs, and the narration was fantastic. The description of the ball rooms, silk dresses, polite conversations and royal dramas were dutifully detailed, which only heightened my imagination. Although not much action takes place in the first chapters, Katerina's life was so full of social meetings and etiquette that I felt comfortable with, not once drifting off. The intrigues between the Duchesses, Dukes, Princes, Queens and Kings from all over Europe were as entertaining as a fight scene.
Katerina slowly unravels the mystery surrounding her power - or curse, as she calls it many times - taking the readers along the journey. Katiya doesn't understand why Prince Danilo, Prince of Montenegro, has suddenly noticed her and seems to be so interested in marrying her. On the other hand, Katerina feels curiously drawn to Grand Duke George as well, even though he doesn't reciprocate her feelings. At the beginning, I was afraid of a love triangle blossoming, but this is not the case. Danilo's ambitions sickened me sometimes, and I hated him more than I could ever express on words, really.
Again, it's impossible not to be impressed by this debut. It doesn't have harsh flaws, only slight aspects of the story that bugged me at certain times, like Katerina's mother's constant illness. I hope women at that time weren't so delicate as to retire to bed if a vase was broken. Also, the romance disappointed me in the end. It developed slowly and rightfully as the story progressed, and then, at the very last chapter, it all went to hell. The relationship between Katerina and George went to a totally different level. Odd.
The writing and background were solid, consistent, leading to a fiction book that felt like non-fiction. It was well researched, and culturally right. I had no problem at all picturing the balls and dances on my mind. I wish Katerina's gift was explored more deeply, but since this is the first installment in the trilogy, I'm certain this issue will play out just fine in The Unfailing Light. I chose not to reveal anything about the plot; It's much more interesting to read the book and be surprised by it. Trust me.
With a fascinating setting and characters, The Gathering Storm was a very quick and delightful read. Despite the rushed ending, I loved the book. So many things happened to Katerina, and I can't wait to get more of her and the Russian society. Robin Bridges surprised me in a very good way.