As is the case in any synopsis of a second book in a trilogy, this summary will contain possible spoilers to book one The Gathering Storm. I strongly suggest you avoid this review if you haven’t read The Gathering Storm yet (instead read my review of the first book here).
You have read The Gathering Storm? Well, then by all means read on about The Unfailing Light!
In St. Petersburg, Russia, 1889, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, finds she can no longer wish to be what she is not: normal. There are now those in both the Dark and Light courts that know her for her ability and Katerina cannot escape that, especially since she saved the life of the tsar.
But she’s not alone. Katerina has found that many in the royal circle possess supernatural abilities – though hers still tends to be one of the most feared. How can she really blame them? From experience, she knows that her dark gift is much more of a curse – only seeming to hurt those around her, including George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s son and the one she loves.
Wanting to somehow put all the revelations behind her, Katerina is determined to get away from Russia and pursue her true dream of being a physician. But just as she’s almost to her destination she is yanked back. Konstantin the Deathless seems to be stirring up trouble again. So, Katerina is put back in her old finishing school, surrounded by a protective spell meant to keep her from harm.
Instead, though, the spell seems to awaken a ghost.
Katerina may be trapped inside the school with a threat more menacing than those trying to enter…
The Unfailing Light seemed a bit of a insubstantial, disconnected middle novel in a trilogy.
Unfortunately I was unable to reread The Gathering Storm, which did put me in a position of disadvantage when it came to trying to remember everything that happened previously in the plot. I kept hoping for a refresher in The Unfailing Light, which did eventually come in fits and bursts.
I liked The Gathering Storm. There were particular elements involving Katerina’s necromancy abilities and the setting of cold Russia that intrigued me, but I hadn’t been head over heels about the novel. Sadly, The Unfailing Light wasn’t very memorable for me.
It was hard to jump back in. And sometimes the descriptions and mystical occurrences felt awkward and forced when in play. Yet there is opulence to the story and an intrigue that continually kept my interested.
The romantic element of The Unfailing Light is sparse but likable. I loved the fact that the book provides an alternate history – a fantasy in a rich, potential-filled setting – but sadly never really felt that it met those strong possibilities.
I really do like the series in many ways, yet I never reach the level of investment that need and want as I’m reading it. Katerina’s supernatural world lacks depth, detail, and history, I think. That makes it feel more lightweight than the comparable (and very beloved by me) Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray.
There’s still a third book, though! I’ll read it to see where it all goes. But for a trilogy I don’t feel strong underlying plot linking the novels together. We shall see!
You may very well disagree with me – make sure to read The Unfailing Light for yourself, especially if you were a fan of The Gathering Storm!