24 January 2012

YA Book Review: The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

Release Date: 10 January 2012
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Goodreads description:
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?
My Thoughts...

Robin Bridges has created a beautiful debut that really pulled me in and played with my emotions.  The blend of history and magic had me from the very beginning--actually, it had me from the moment that I read the description.  I've been craving more historical fiction and the fantasy elements mixed in had me more than a little intrigued.  And I was HOOKED.  This book was really a thrilling read for me with a blend of action, magic, and romance.
Katerina was a character that I was intrigued by from the beginning.  Her skills as a necromancer set her apart from many other YA heroines.  I've read lots of books with witches and dragons and shifters and vampires and fey...but a necromancer struck me as something new and different.  She's also a strong young woman who wants to be a doctor, something relatively unheard of during this time period and actually banned in Russia, and I liked that she defied stereotypes while still going along with the societal customs that were expected of her.

The cast of characters in this book is also nothing to scoff at.  There is a lot going on with a lot of different people, which you might think could be overwhelming.  However, Ms. Bridges successfully wove each character into her story and made them memorable enough that I was generally not confused about who was doing what and what was going on. Even in the large cast, she was also able to make certain characters really stand out and draw your attention, like the Crown Prince Danilo, Katerina's cousin, Dariya, and the Grand Duke George.

The Gathering Storm wasn't perfect.  I found myself sometimes thrown by the amount of magic going on in the society and the accepted presence of fey and vampires throughout.  Also, while I wanted there to be romance between Katerina and George, I found myself a bit taken aback by how it seemed to come out of nowhere (or possibly to come on a little too intensely) when it did happen.  Despite these minor setbacks, I'm excited to read more in this series because the setting and characters truly captured my imagination.  I'm excited to see where Katerina's journey will take her and what future struggles, both magical and personal, she will endure.  Thankfully it looks like the sequel will come out later in 2012!


Petra @ Safari Poet said...

Great review! I really like it when every character has a strong personality and isn't just there for the main character to play off of, which sounds like the case here. I'm looking forward to reading this as well.

New follower :-)

Marla said...

Great review, Jessi!  You are absolutely spot on about the strength of the different characters' personalities.  I found them easy to keep up with, as well, despite the sheer number of them.  I adored this book and really hope that the next book comes out this year. 

Kristi Book Faery said...

I didn't read this one! After reading your review, I'm sorry I didn't! It sounds fantastic and I love the fact that you really had the characters down.
Now I have to read it!

Fantastic review, Jessi!

Jessi said...

Thanks, Marla! Your positive review actually convinced me to pick it up--I was thinking about passing because of a string of negative reviews.  SO glad I didn't. :)

Jessi said...

Hey, Petra! Thanks for stopping by! Characters are my #1 most important thing with books so I'm glad this one worked out too. :)  

Marla said...

I'm really glad!  I know it's mostly subjective in the end, but this book left me so pleased and excited for the next book.  I'm happy that you gave it a try.  :-)

Jessi said...

I almost skipped it too, Kristi! I'm so glad now that I didn't so I hope you give it a shot! :)

Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Oh your review definitely sold me on this one.  I've added this to my list.  I'm intrigued by the magic + time period.

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