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’ve mentioned it before that I’m a total history nerd, and I have a lot of interest in Russian history. I even took an entire class on the Russian revolution in college. So needless to say, The Gathering Storm really interested me when I read the synopsis. I was not disappointed!
First of all, major credit for excellent historical namedropping. Aside from the references to royalty, we also get references to Ivan Pavlov and Vlad Dracul (who wasn’t Russian, but who really cares? He’s a vampire!).
I felt like this book had a little bit of everything – history, Russian royalty, vampires, fairies (which I don’t usually go for, but it worked here), necromancers, etc. And it was fun to read about bad witches! Not that I don’t enjoy good witches too, but there’s something so fun about bad witches.
I liked the characters a lot as well. Katya was great, because she wanted more for herself than a rich and powerful husband in a time when that is all that most women really wanted. I love it when female characters in historical fiction buck traditional roles! And I loved Grand Duke George, even though he’s kind of a cold fish/cantankerous ass for a large portion of the book. The level of romance was perfect – not too much, and it really built slowly. I’m totally team Grand Duke George. The action was also pretty solid – I really felt for Katya when she was in peril.
My only minor complaint was that I had some difficulty keeping all of the Russian names straight, but that’s not a failing on the part of the author, more just that they’re kind of complicated and a lot of them are really similar.
I also liked that the book wasn’t a maaaaajor cliffhanger. I don’t generally mind those but I’ve had so many lately and it makes me crazy when I can’t get the next book right away. It definitely ends on a note that necessitates a sequel, but it doesn’t sucker punch you in the teeth and then leave you hanging for a year until the next book is released, so I appreciated that. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, which is due out in October.