Delacorte Books/Random House
YA Historical Fantasy, 400 pages
Acquired and read: Through NetGalley in return for a fair, unbiased review. Read within two days.
Challenge? 2012 Debut Author Challenge
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?
From the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to read this. Why? Well, first of all, it looked fantabulously awesome, but when I was a kid (like a kid-kid, not a teenager like I am now) I was obsessed with Anastasia Romanov. Obsessed. As in, I thought she was still alive and waiting for rescue and her rightful throne somewhere.
I never claimed to be normal.
Anyway, during my brief stint of researching Anastasia and knowing everything there was to know about Anastasia's world, I fell in love with Russian history. Temporarily. Before Japan took over. I mean, what's there not to love? Samovars. Being wrapped up in furs so you can go on a sled ride. A dashingly evil prince set on marrying you so that he can take over the world, using you as his weapon.
No, wait, that's just Katerina.
This is not the Russia I used to research as a kid. It may be the 1880s - girls don't have a ton of rights, and dads sport handsome mustaches and talk about war and death and soldiers and such. And I do have to admit, Robin Bridges really did her research. One minute, you're admiring the insides of the royal palace, and the next you're surrounded by various paranormal creatures duking it out for power.
Yeah, I think Anastasia just lost her pedestal in my memory. Sorry, dear.
Katerina is charming and believable. She might be strong, but not strong enough to fight off Danilo's hypnotic charms - "Unhand me...oh, your eyes, they sparkle so...I think I love you" - and she does go for the right guy in the end. Sort of. And she wants to be a doctor. Don't you just love a girl who defies her gender role?
Also, I really like her hat. Can I have one, too?
Warnings: Some mild language and thematic violence. You know - dark, paranormal, angsty YA stuff. You read it all the time.
Final verdict: Kaye likes. You probably will, too.