The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
3 1/2 stars
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 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?
Lush and opulent, romantic and sinister, The Gathering Storm, the first book in Robin Bridges’s Katerina Trilogy, reimagines the lives of Russia’s nobility in a fabulously intoxicating and page-turning fantasy.
So, if you’ve been reading the reviews of this book, you probably heard that this book is really mythology heavy.
IT REALLY, REALLY IS.
Now, it should be known that I am ALL FOR mythology. But the thing is, if I don’t understand that mythology, I need it explained to me. 99% of the reason The Gathering Storm only got 3 1/2 stars from me is because I felt as if NOTHING is explained.
My big problem with this book is that I walked away feeling like I had no idea what had just happened. The book’s blurb doesn’t even begin to cover the kind of mythology going on in this book. Actually, I felt like Katerina’s power took a huge backseat to the different kinds of creatures running around in the book–and there were a LOT of creatures; almost too many.
The major creature in this book? Vampires. That was totally not what I signed up for. No, they don’t sparkle, but there is three different “breeds” of them that I never fully understood, and they didn’t seem to have any of the traditional vampire issues. (Granted, I think Bridges was playing with Russian vampire myths, because she was name-dropping breeds I’d never heard of.) The second one? Fae. It kept being referenced in brief flashes that the Imperial Family was descended from the Light Court of Fae, and this other family was descended from the Dark Court and they had special abilities and … something. Didn’t quite understand that either. There was, of course, undead, but that was all thanks to people other than Katerina for the most part. Supposedly she did raise one guy, but she never TRIED and it was just really, really weird. A reference to werewolves was also dropped for like three sentences.
Now, maybe my problem with this book is that I read really, really fast. I literally cannot slow down, which is not good when trying to read books like this. But I just kept going through this book and just. Not. Getting it. Whether it was mythology or events or descriptions, I felt like way too many things were glossed over. Other people have read and loved this book–aka, totally understood it–so to each their own, but don’t take this book lightly.
Another thing that bothered me: Do you see that bit in the blurb where it says “No one knows” about her power? In the beginning, no one did. Then, one person finds out and it’s like dominos. I don’t remember 85% of these people ever being told about her powers, but all of a sudden EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYTHING. That was really jarring to me.
Now, I can’t get away with this without mentioning that potential love triangle the blurb hints at. Readers can relax, it doesn’t get as love triangle cliché as it sounds.
Personal annoyance: The name dropping. If ONE more person called Katerina by her full name every other sentence, I was going to lose it. There were way too many names running around as is, especially for characters that were never introduced in the story. “He” or “she” really is an acceptable substitute when you can use it, authors.
Lastly, the ending. Perhaps it’s just me, but I felt that–for the end of a first book in a trilogy–the ending was far too tidy. Obviously there were some things to clear up, but there didn’t seem to be enough still going on to keep some readers interested. I’m legitimately curious about how the story will continue because there isn’t a clear place to go from there, except that it seems to be leading to “Katerina leaves Russia to go be a Doctor in Switzerland.” Which I feel should be the feeling we get after the end of book THREE.
Overall, though, I think this book has potential. Robin Bridges is, after all, a debut author (who did make my list of 12 Debut Authors I’m Looking Forward to in 2012). The Gathering Storm is very involved, so I will certainly be picking up the second book, The Unfailing Light, expected to be published October 9, 2012. What I’m hoping for is that Bridges, now settled into the story, will be able to take the time to explain just how in the world this world actually works, and what in the world is going on in these millions and millions of layers. I would recommend this book, but only to certain types of people who devour mythology heavy books. If you’re looking for a new world to drop right into, I’m be wary about handing you The Gathering Storm. An interesting challenge it is. An easy read it’s not.