Title: The Gathering StormSeries: The Katerina TrilogyAuthor: Robin BridgesPublisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers USAPublication Date: 10 Jan 2012
Source: NetgalleyChallenge: DABRating: 4/5Synopsis from Goodreads
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 am not going to profess to be a expert in Eastern European History because I am not. In fact, I probably haven't got a clue so I am the wrong person to comment on the historical accuracy of this novel. I will say I was intrigued by the premise of combining a historical fiction with a paranormal. For me it worked beautifully.
The descriptions were deliciously vivid and sensuous. All aspects were covered and woven into the narrative drawing me into the world of Russia 1888 and Katerina's life. From the clothes, the weather and the buildings each was described in delectable detail without over-powering the actual plot but enhancing and progressing the imagery beautifully.
The initial scene in the book focuses on a seance setting the atmosphere of tension and drama from the outset. The contrast between superstition, spiritualism and the introduction of modern medical practices was poignantly portrayed and still relevant today in some respects.
Katerina's frustration at not being allowed an education at a medical institute was understandable. Old ideals being threatened by modern times and archaic men in power holding tightly to the past rather than embracing a better future.There were a few medical references that I did wonder if they would have been widely known at that time but again I didn't read this book for its historical/medical accuracy.
The weaving of Russian history and its affiliation with the occult was really interesting adding depth to the plot. The use of classical music references, alongside the theater/ballet productions aided the overall immersion into the time period portrayed. The contrast of the opulence of the rich contrasted starkly with the abject poverty on the streets.
About half way into the book I found myself wondering if the story was trying to be too many things, shortly after that point something just clicked together making it all work. I feel as if this book has set the groundwork on which the rest of the trilogy can be based.
Katerina's inner battle to accept who she really is, in all respects and to embrace her destiny in a time when women were only seen as enhancements of their husbands power was powerfully demonstrated. I did find Katerina slightly frustrating with her relationships. The chemistry between Katerina and George ignited from the start, however, Katerina completely mis-interperates his behavior leading to certain situations that could have been easily avoided. The saying that together they are stronger is most definitely applicable to Katerina and George.
A really intriguing start to a trilogy with a truly individual story-line. I hope this one gets picked up in the UK so I can read the rest of the trilogy. If you are looking for something completely different then this is the book for you.