Wednesday, 12 February 2014

THE GATHERING STORM

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

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?
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I have an uncanny ability to pick up books about vampires without having any idea they're full of vampires. Seriously. It's amazing. All I read was the synopsis posted above. As you can see, not a single mention of vampires. Not a one. Some people might say that necromancer was a bit of a giveaway, but I disagree. In my experience, necromancers spend more time hanging out with zombies than they do with vampires. So, I had no idea this book would be about vampires. That might put a lot of people off, and it might have put me off, actually - I love vampires, but I'm a little bored of them right now - but it shouldn't. Not really, because this book is actually pretty good.

I have something of an obsession with books set in Russia, stemming from my love of the film Anastasia. My knowledge of Russia is in fact slim, but I am drawn to books set there. I think, though, that the setting could have been drawn more distinctly. Beyond the names - of characters and places - and the use of the word tsar, there actually wasn't a whole lot that marked it as being set in Russia. There isn't much evidence of Russian customs, or food, or clothing. Honestly, you could have changed the setting quite easily just by doing a search for tsar and St. Petersburg.

The names are quite tricky, too. Or perhaps I should say the titles. There's an author's note at the start of the book explaining how names are constructed in Russian - which I was really grateful for, otherwise I would have ended up with basically no idea what was happening - but it didn't address the issue of titles. Every character has about four different titles, which are frequently used instead of a given name, and I kept finding myself hopelessly lost. By the end, I think I'd figured out who everyone was, but I'm not entirely sure.

This is a nice read. I enjoyed it and I'm planning to read the second one, but it was also quite a difficult read. And there are vampires. Don't let that put you off too much, though, because they're not cheesy vampires. They're more like blood-drinking witches than anything else. Okay, that sounds cheesy, but trust me, it works.



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