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?
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers(info grabbed from GoodReads)
The Gathering Storm surprised me by being exactly what I expected, but in a way I didn’t expect it too. I was not expecting to really like this book, as I thought mixing Russian history with the supernatural would be too… I don’t know, but it would be “too-something.” But I didn’t find The Gathering Storm to be too anything; in fact, I thought it served up a generous heaping of both historical fiction and paranormal and mixed them seamlessly to form a dish that turned out to be “just right.”
I have been bored with historical fiction in the past by the slow pacing and lack of plot development, and I grew to expect that from all historical fiction. That was incorrect of me, and any time you generalize to an entire genre it usually will be just that: an overgeneralization. I was happy to find in The Gathering Storm a well paced plot while maintaining the sense of history in the novel. The historical aspect seemed very accurate to me in terms of what nobility everyday life is like, and even felt that the writing fit. Not that it read like late 19th century literature, just that the prose wasn’t as relaxed as contemporary paranormal.
The insert of paranormal elements into the Russian court was like adding a needed spice to a dish -- it would have been incomplete without it. At first, I thought having fairies mingling within court a bit odd, but it grew on me. I thought Katerina’s response to her own gift of necromancy (she saw it as a curse) was appropriate for the character and the time period. Raising the dead unintentionally is pretty scary and her reluctance towards exploring her ability was understandable (though maybe a little annoying for me as I heart some zombies).
The Gathering Storm is a great start to a potentially superb trilogy. I loved how it felt like a complete book in and of itself while still alluding to its sequel, as some other trilogies have failed to do. The addition of the paranormal to history was something I had not anticipated liking as much as I did. I would recommend it to anyone who thinks the mix of paranormal and historical fiction sounds intriguing and is craving something a bit different.
Final Thought: 5 out of 7 toadstools
This review is also posted on GoodReads