Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

Title: The Gathering Storm
Author: Robin Bridges
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Pages: 400 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: From the publisher via NetGalley

The Gathering Storm (Katerina Alexandrovna, #1)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?


Duchess Katerina Alexandrovna of Oldenburg has a secret: she's a necromancer, one who can raise the dead. Since discovering her gift as a child, she has refused to use it again out of fear, but a threat to the tsarevich by the Montenegrin princess and sorceress Elena forced Katiya to use her powers once again. This pushes her into a tangled web of intrigue where the Montenegrin royals, now aware of her gift, are trying to win her over, fellow royals use Katiya and tell her only what suits their agendas, and the tsar's middle son accuses her of being a threat to the tsar. The truth is that the greatest threat is yet to come and Katiya's powers are the key to defeating it when it comes.

Katerina--Katiya, from this point on--was a great character and I enjoyed both her and the conflict she had with her powers, but there were time I thought she was ridiculous. For instance, she can believe that faeries, necromancy, sorceresses, and general magic exist because they're all around her, but vampires and prophetic dreams? She calls bull on that. Really? It boggles my mind how she does that. If there's one mythical being out there, it's not a far stretch for there to be more, is it?

I initially had worries about the book due to the mention of an apparent love triangle in the summary, and I was relieved to find that this was not the case. It's a little more complicated than that. Our antagonist (one of about fifty million, really) Danilo, appropriately creeped me out and made me hate him, but I wasn't quite sold on Katiya's love interest George. When a guy spend half the book glaring at her/accusing her of being evil and then spend the other half of the book only starting to warm up, and then does something as dramatic as George does at the end of the book, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel.

Though I am not overly familiar with 1880s Russia, it appears the author has done her research on royal titles, the Russian naming system, and more. Only one or two things please me more than seeing that an author has done their research well and not contradicted themselves in multiple places. So thank you for that, Mrs. Bridges. Thank you. Now, if only some other authors could follow that example...

Several plot lines are going on in the book--the dead soldiers coming back to life, the Montenegrins' plans, strange happenings around St. Petersburg, and what's going on behind the scenes--but the book switches seamlessly between them, timing them just right so the switches happen when the reader begins to tire of one plot line and wonder when advancements will be made on one of the other plots. I can't remember the last time I read a book so well-paced in such a manner!

The Gathering Storm was a worthwhile read I know I'll be getting a copy of once it is released. There was a troubling detail or two towards the end (mainly an element coming in that should forbid George and Katiya from being together, and those forbidden romances are so passe), but I look forward to the sequel in... Wow, it's going to be a while. Reading the ARC of a fantastic novel: a double-edged blade.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman