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The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm is a YA historical fantasy novel, and the first in the new Katerina Trilogy.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888 Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, is attending balls and dinners among other royal society.

Yet she is hiding a secret.

She has a power so dark and wrong that she tries desperately to forget that she ever found out about it when she was a young child. But when a member of the Imperial Family is threatened right in front of her, she uses her ability for the first time in many years, almost instinctively, to protect him.

This event sweeps her into a web of intrigue as there are some among society that recognized her power – and knows it came from her.

Among the bloodlines of Europe there are ties to light and dark magic – and suddenly the dark side is getting much stronger. Her abilities are now in demand by the kingdom of Montenegro. Meanwhile, she must deal with George Alexandrovich, the middle son of the tsar, who seems disgusted with abilities – but how can she blame him? She is too.

A name is given to what she is: necromancer.

Apparently the time has come to stop ignoring it. But will she be able to use it for the side of good, or will the inherent darkness of the power pull her to evil?

The Gathering Storm features a unique girl in Katerina. She has aspirations for medical school and longs to be a doctor, though in 1888 Russia doesn’t allow girls to attend such a school. Also, her dark powers of necromancy do feel disturbing. Hiding all of this among Russian aristocracy is a fun twist.

With sleighs, muffs, and wool cloaks you feel as though you’ll be seeing your breath as you breathe and seeing the frost on the windows. It’s definitely vivid and creates a lovely scene in the imagination. It’s interesting to have the paranormal activity taking place at these balls, among royalty, and the fascination of supernatural power plays, mysterious motives, and attempted murder are certainly enough to create a thrilling tale.

I found it all very intriguing, but I was not entranced by it. I loved being submerged in the all-girls Smolny Institute (finishing school) and having this dark magic at war among polite, noble society – but it kept feeling like something was missing.

But as Katerina’s involuntary abilities accelerated I found the plot was getting juicier and I began to like her better. I was still not utterly wowed and entrenched, but once the fantasy began to reach its peaks, I was finally fully involved.

Around a third into The Gathering Storm the suspense and creepy factor intensified, as did potential romance. In the end, I found the novel to be altogether original, mixing imperial Russia with vampires and various otherworldly creatures, creating a gothic mix that felt very different.

It took me a while to really warm to it, and I still don’t really know why (who knows, maybe I was just in a weird mood), and I certainly wouldn’t call it perfect – but by the conclusion I was a fan of The Gathering Storm. It’s definitely worth following up on with the sequel, which I believe is coming out later this year.

There was something sneakily cool and unsuspectingly alluring about The Gathering Storm that I simply can’t ignore.

Neither should you, in this bibliophile's opinion!

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