Review: The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm (Katerina Trilogy #1) by Robin Bridges
Release Date ~ January 10, 2012
Delacorte Books for Young Readers ~ Random House
ISBN13: 9780385740227
Review copy received from Random House Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
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?

Imperial Russia has been a long-time fascination of mine, so I jumped at the chance to review The Gathering Storm as soon as I heard about it; and I followed its progress along, anxiously awaiting the time to read it.

And what started off as a slower paced, complicated story quickly won my attention and left me totally absorbed and finishes with a very different feel from most other YA books. This book won't be for every reader, but for those of us looking for something unique and magical this is the perfect fit!

  1. Magic and mysticism:
    I loved how rooted this story was in dark mysticism and all things supernatural; there's such a creepy atmosphere well set up in the book. I'm only vaguely familiar with Russian folklore, and I've heard all the evil Rasputin stories, but I really liked how Robin took this idea and fully immersed it into the world she creates here. And the sinister ambiance is fantastic, and totally gave me chills at some parts. Necromancy isn't brought up that often in YA (at least, in it's more traditional negative connotation) and the way it was portrayed was incredibly interesting and exciting!
  2. Fans of historical fiction:
    I had heard some people complain about the slower pace of this one, and it definitely is a less action-packed read than most of us are now used to. But I grew up reading so much historical fiction (Royal Diaries series, anyone?) and I quickly found myself getting used to the pace and all the details surrounding balls and social status. These kinds of details and information aren't that exciting to all readers, but if you can place yourself in the context then it really is fantastic. And Imperial Russia isn't a setting commonly used in stories, so bonus points for that!
  3. Katerina's development:
    Katerina drastically grows and develops over the course of the novel; the girl she is at the end of the story only barely resembles who she was at the beginning. And it's so casually done that her growth feels entirely natural and plausible. She easily grew on me as a character, and I enjoyed seeing the little ways she tried to fight the expectations others had for her as a duchess.
Now my only real complaint with this one was how confusing some parts of it were. I felt extremely lost at the beginning, as all these characters (with their complicated, unfamiliar) Russian names being thrown at you as well as all the mythology. I had no idea the mythology would be so important or diverse, and it completely threw me for a loop when some of the magical and (real life) folklore aspects were introduced because they came with such little explanation. Towards the end of the book, it felt like every other character knew exactly what was going on... except for Katerina. And she, unfortunately, was our narrator so the reader doesn't have much of a clue either. You do pick up on it after a while, but some earlier background information would have easily made it that much of a better book.

But overall, my skepticism was won over towards the middle of the book and I clearly ended up loving it by the end! I'm deifnitely hoping to see some other plot points fleshed out more in the next book, but I like the direction it's heading in.

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Bookish in a Box said...

This is my Waiting on Wednesday for next week! Russian history is an underrepresented setting in YA so I'm excited for it...too bad it was so confusing, but it sounds like everything else made up for it, at least a little.

Sophia Rose said...

I love historical fiction set in Russia so I'm very intrigued by this book.

Thanks for sharing your review!

curlypow said...

I really enjoyed this one. I didn't find it too confusing myself, but I realised that I remembered some of my Russian history and folklore from school - benefits of European schooling I guess. I can't wait to see how this continues.

Unknown said...

Thanks for fielding all my questions on Twitter Brenna! I really get what you mean about it reading more like historical fiction. Since I stopped anticipating the paranormal as much I have begun to enjoy it more.

ChristasBooks said...

I have so much love for this novel, although I agree there were some confusing parts and Katerina wasn't the best main character. My love of imperial Russia and of the supernatural combined into one awesome force however made me forgive all those other drawbacks.

Carole said...

You might like the Paullina Simons ones set in Russia. http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2012/03/paullina-simons-novelist.html

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