Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review: The Gathering Storm, by Robin Bridges

The Gathering Storm is a unique book that pairs a story of romance and Russian aristocracy with paranormal elements, providing a complicated and thrilling plot.

Katarina is a princess. She's also known that she can bring things back from the dead since she was a small child. She keeps this secret to herself and vows to never use these powers. For Katarina's mother, it's all about the balls -- the hair, the dresses, the behavior -- designed to fetch Katarina a husband. Katarina wants no part of it -- she dreams of being a doctor -- an impossibility in 1880s Russia.

This is like a Russion fairy tale, except apparently Russians told fairy tales about the aristocracy having special powers. They were all fairies, or witches, or blood-drinkers, or necromancers. We have all of these in The Gathering Storm. I enjoyed how we were just reading about gowns and balls, and then the characters talk about the witches and fairies as if they are simply a natural part of life.

I have mixed feelings about the book. I couldn't put it down--I had to find out what happened--but....I did roll my eyes repeatedly at the magical elements. Still, I was sucked in to the story. I guess it depends on your ability to suspend your disbelief.

The premise is that someone is raising dead soldiers to make an army to conquer the Tsar. The Tsar and his family are part of the light court. The King and Queen of Montenegro are part of the dark court. Prince Danelo, of Montenegro, is determined to marry Katarina, and use her powers for the dark court.

There's really a lot more to the story. One thing it needed was a family tree diagram. I really had some trouble keeping track of all the characters -- although the story still made sense because I could keep track of the main characters easily. The vampire/undead/necromancer lore was a bit complicated. Especially at the climactic ending. I had to read a few parts over, and I'm still not sure I understand it all. A glossary would have helped too. bogatyr, Koldun, Dekibristi, Vladiki -- there were many words that I just couldn't keep track of.

The fact that Katarina discovers a spell that allows her to be invisible seemed a bit too convenient. I mean, what does that have to do with being a necromancer? But then I tell myself, I didn't complain about the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter, so just go with it. I also found it unbelievable that Katarina would be given a ring which would offer her protection from Prince Danelo and then she forgets to wear it.  Then, even more unbelievable, after she realizes what a mistake it was NOT to wear the ring, she loses it. That one is just too much to believe, but still, ended up being a small part of the plot.

It was exciting, especially the ending. I liked Katarina -- she was very brave. I loved that she had a supportive father. I thought Prince George was a big sweetheart. The villains didn't really shake me up. I didn't really feel a palpable danger, and I thought the villians could have been described a bit better. Especially the bogatyr. I didn't get really get that.

I did have some problems with the book, but I can still say I enjoyed it. I would recommend this more to my paranormal addicts than my historical fiction lovers. I think the paranormal aspects would be too much for the historical purists. This book is the first in a trilogy, and I will be interested in the next one, although I probably won't need to buy it the day it comes out. I guess I'm somewhat indifferent.....

Published by Delacorte, January 10, 2012
eBook obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 2.5/5

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  1. I don't like paranormal, but I love anything set in Russia. I almost requested it from NetGalley based on that alone but reading your review I'm glad I didn't because I don't think it would be for me at all.

    1. I don't think I would recommend this one if you don't like paranormal. It's a big part of the book.

  2. Thanks for the great review, Annette. I've read another review, but it didn't bring up the issues you did. I think I may still like this one because all though I like "pure" historical fiction, I also like paranormal. I will try it out...eventually!

  3. Great review. I'm about halfway through this and I'm going to DNF it. So disappointing b/c I was really looking forward to it, but I'm bored. I just don't care about Katarina.

  4. Great review. I felt very much the same about this book.


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