This is probably more books than should have been in one review, but these two five-book series by Bec McMaster are connected and ALSO my review is based on how they relate to each other. (Hint: the first series is okay, the second is SUCH an improvement.) Sorry, this is so long, but here we go!
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.
The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare
Are you looking for humor? Fantasy? Action? Romance? Mystery? Vampires? Werewolves? All of the above?
Then I’ve got some books for you!
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot in the paranormal genre, but nothing’s been quite as good or as fun a read as this trilogy by Cassandra Clare. The first book, City of Bones, tells the tale of Clarissa “Clary” Fray, who thinks she’s just a normal teenage whose dad died before she was born and an artistic but forceful mom. One night at a teen club in Brooklyn, though, she spots a group of teens slaying something that claims to be a demon—and finds she’s the only one who can see them.
After her home is ransacked, her mother goes missing and Clary is attacked by a crocodile-looking demon, Clary finds that the group of teens is part of a large organization called Shadowhunters—warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. The fifteen-year-old is now burdened with the knowledge that demons—along with warlocks, witches, fairies, vampires, werewolves and all other manners of mystical creatures—really do exist.
And her mother isn’t the normal woman Clary thought she was.
But the secrets and lies exposed in City of Bones turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg. In the second and third books, City of Ashes and City of Glass, Clary will find and lose friends, learn the truth about her past and her family and fall in love—sometimes, with the wrong people—all while trying to save the world from a madman the Shadowhunters thought was dead.
All three books are amazingly well-written and fast paced. Even the “slow” moments of the book keep you reading. The plot twists and turns like puzzling mystery to boot. My personal favorite about them, though, is that nearly every other page you will find yourself laughing out loud. Even after my two thousandth read-through, the jokes never seem to get old. Her characters, too, never lose me—they are some of my favorites in books overall.
If you start reading them now, you’re very lucky. With the trilogy finished, you won’t have to wait in suspense to know what happens like I did! However, Clare recently released her newest book, Clockwork Angel, which is the first book in a new trilogy called The Infernal Devices. While in the same world as The Mortal Instruments, it is actually a prequel to that trilogy. But if you’re worried that means repetition and things you already know about, don’t be! I just finished the book myself, and the world and plot is so completely different then The Mortal Instruments it’s hard to believe they both take place in the same universe! However, Clare retains the loveable characters and laugh-out-loud humor that made me (and my brother) love her first trilogy. Even more recently, I have found out that Clare is writing a new trilogy that will follow the events after City of Glass!
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to read, I definitely recommend all of Clare’s books. At the very least, you’ll have to crack a smile. As for me? I’m actually in the middle of re-reading City of Ashes right now.
That’s the only thing keeping me sane as I wait for Clockwork Prince and City of Fallen Angels to come out in 2011!