I was drawn to Robin Bridges’, THE GATHERING STORM (Delacorte Press, 2012), because I love everything to do with Imperial Russia. Much like the story of the Titanic, the long reign of the Tsars culminates in a tragedy -- but still enjoys world-wide fascination. And why not?  There’s  pomp and pageantry, mystery and court intrigue, jewels and costumes to die for.  Bridges includes all of these in her novel and much more.

THE GATHERING STORM takes place in St. Petersburg in 1888. Katerina Alexandra Maria von Holstein-Gottorp, Dutchess of Oldenburg, (known as Katerina Alexandrovna to her friends) is a descendant of Empress Josephine on her mother’s side and Katherine the Great on her father’s. Like most of the noble young women she knows, she is expected to marry well. Unfortunately, Katerina wants to be a doctor, something that isn’t permitted in Russia at that time, and horrifies her mother. “What man would marry a doctor?”  If that doesn't complicate her life enough, she also happens to be a necromancer who will undertake a mission to save the Tsar and his family from the evil clutches of a nefarious family of vampires. (Oh, yes.)

The paranormal elements found in the novel are another reason why I wanted to read the book. I wanted to find out how Bridges was going to incorporate a necromancer, vampires and reanimated humans into a story about the Russian Court.  She deftly weaves the mystery of old Russia, the dark folktales and fairy tales and superstitions with historical figures and events. In fact, all of the characters in the novel actually existed except for Katerina. (There is a wonderful family tree on her website) Even the future Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra make an appearance as two young people in love, with a slight foreshadowing of the disease (a dark mark on her soul) that Alexandra will pass on to her son.
There are wonderful details of court life and frightening supernatural encounters. And, yes, there is a love story that slowly grows, despite a healthy helping of “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Bridges keeps the pace moving and her characters are distinct and memorable She is well versed in Russian history, culture and folklore and that knowledge matches her writing skills and imagination. 

I liked the book so much that I am about to pick up the second installment of the Katerina Trilogy, THE UNFAILING LIGHT.


I'm so glad you liked this, Robin! I have always been intrigued by the Russian court, as well, and found this take on it wonderfully inventive.

It was truly original
, wasnt it?

This sounds fascinating. I love the whole setting--will add this one to my list.

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