The Gathering Storm (Katerina Trilogy, Volume 1)
Never before have I understood how much I would never ever want to be a princess. I love that Bridges built a woman character who wanted more than anything to be a doctor in 1888. She wanted to cure diseases instead of going to balls. That being said, though the character of Katerina has strength and spirit, she also has a fair bit of idiotic tendencies. As to the plot, it gets a little slow in the middle, when the story gets bogged down in politicking and morally ambiguous characters. Going into it, I knew Katerina was a necromancer, but I wasn’t expecting almost every other character to also be a supernatural creature of some kind or another. The only characters who weren’t supernatural were her mother (who reminded me way too much of Mrs. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice fame), her father, and her brother. Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s kind of weird that they’re all related to her. Anyway, the plot is driven by a gathering of forces beyond Katerina’s control and while Katerina does sometimes come off as a silly princess, she also sometimes shows a backbone and steps in to help the guy whose throat was just ripped out. She’s mildly swoony, which is a huge improvement over her mother who is outrageously swoony. (Sorry, this is going to be one of my stream-of-consciousness reviews. I didn’t have any coffee this morning. You’ve been warned.)
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 know it serves the plot to have a character hide a Big Secret, but it drives me batty when it happens. I can totally understand her reticence at disclosing the fact that she’s a necromancer. It’s the Big Secret that happens later in the book that kills me. If you are threatened, tell someone and make it someone who matters, not your cousin who can’t do anything to help you meet the threat. Tell your parents or the authorities. I understand that it heightens the tension of the plot to have the character in the clutches of the Big Bad, with no one else knowing that they are in fact a bad person, but it almost seems like the easy route to take in storytelling. Why not let her tell someone who matters and have that someone die on their way or turn evil or get kicked in the head by a horse and forget who they are? I’m sure it’s noble and all to keep the threat to yourself in order to protect everyone you love, but wouldn’t it also be noble to clue someone in so that the threat could actually be neutralized, thereby making the people you love safe?
While I understand that historically women where only taught to dance, sing, play a musical instrument, and run a house, knowing that there was a school just for that really bothers me. As a modern woman, my only reaction is: screw that. This is where Katerina won me over. She was stuck in a school whose only purpose was to breed wives and she spent her ever available moment either unearthing a supernatural threat to her country or studying for medical school. When she had a question for the doctor, she got up early and walked over to the hospital, none of that malarkey about needing a chaperone to escort her through the city. Her insistence that her interest in medicine come before her need to find a husband was refreshing. Even her mother was obsessed with marrying her off. It was really nice to read that there was at least one woman in this world would wasn’t completely subsumed by the concept of marriage.
In the end, I spent a good portion of this book enjoying it, but there were aspects that slowed down the reading a little. The duplicity of so many of the characters, the constant politicking, the husbanding of young girls, and Katerina’s fatalism really put a hamper on my compulsion to pick up the book. If you enjoy the smoke and mirrors of this kind of world, then this story is absolutely for you.
3 ink bottles.