Series: Katerina Alexandrovna, #1
Author: Robin Bridges
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers
Release Date: January 10, 2012
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?
The living dead in Imperial Russia...sounds awesome, right? Right! Royal balls, sophistication and glamor, and mythical creatures. "We live in the strangest of times. Russia was steeped in mysticism and the occult, and science was struggling against superstition to pull the country into the future." And Katerina is caught in the middle. She dreams of going to medical school, but she also has a strange "gift" that allows her to raise the dead. She's also been warned to protect her family from the "blood-drinkers."
But is that warning legitimate, since it came from a possibly senile princess? What is Katerina suppose to do since the vampire she's suppose to kill is the same prince who wants to marry her? Katerina is finding it hard to know what is true and who is safe to trust. There's a whole world of supernatural creatures that she has no clue about in addition to the ones she's familiar with. It seems like all of the supernatural creatures around St. Petersburg are in an uproar: increased ac by the wolf-folk, the return of the vampires, someone raising an undead army, and Katerina's caught in all of it.
Katerina is a great character; I really liked her. She's smart, ambitious, compassionate, with the added bonus of being a necromancer. She'd rather research diseases than become queen, which definitely sets her apart from the other girls of the time. One thing that I had trouble believing was that she wouldn't want to learn how to control her powers even after she accidentally brings back a fallen soldier. It takes her entirely too long to decide to figure things out so it doesn't happen again, but at least she was determined to help the poor man she resurrected and was genuinely concerned about his well being. There's so much power she's capable of harnessing, and I'm excited for her to do so in the future books.
I must admit that there were times I found myself rather confused about who's who. It was a bit hard to remember who was related to who, what their title was, what kind of supernatural being they were, what their agenda was, etc. But it wasn't so bad that it distracted me from the story. It was obvious that the author put a lot of time and effort into setting the stage for her debut novel, but it was a lot of information to try to keep straight.
Overall, The Gathering Storm is captivating and original. It held my interest from page one to the every last paragraph. I loved being sent back to a time where Russia was bathed in sparkles and the occult, and I'm excited to see where this series is going.