The Gathering Storm by debut author Robin Bridges is more intricate than a Faberge egg. Russian mythology, courtly intrigue and just a hint of slow burn romance are deftly woven together in Katerina’s story, the first of a trilogy that left me desperately wanting the next book, The Unfailing Light.
Katerina has aspirations of being a doctor and studying at medical school. However, she lives in tsarist Russia, where this dream is not possible for a noble-born girl and so she spends her time at Smolny school. Did I mention she has a secret? You see, Katiya (her nickname) is a necromancer – an ability she keeps hidden. Yet certain circles find out and this really bad guy, Prince Danilo, wants to marry her so he can use her for his evil ends. BUT Katiya doesn’t want to do dark, evil things. One of the tsar’s children, duke George, finds out as well and decides he does not like Katerina. SO yes, there is kind of a love triangle that pops up and I won’t give away how it plays out.
The Russian style of naming might be off putting if you don’t read very much Russian lit. However, it does get easer to understand later in the book, as long as one keeps in mind how much the Russians in The Gathering Storm like their saints and also like to name based on parentage. Plus, with the Russian court there’s not just one prince or princess, there’s many, from different families. Note the Tsar is at the top. Otherwise, it’s not that hard to follow.
I loved the traditional Russian mythology that Robin Bridges wove in — of tsars who could turn into magical beings called bogatyrs to save Russia, of witches, of vampires. It’s so fascinating and rich and sent my brain on a flight of fancy. Honestly, though, I kept hoping Baba Yaga would make an appearance.
As for Katerina, I liked her as a character. She has aspirations to help people and go to medical school. She definitely works very hard at school. And then she tries very hard to protect others. However, I thought she did lack some agency and would have liked to see her be stronger and save herself, but given the time period (Imperial Russia), her actions did make sense. I mean, she would often expect a male to save her, but I suppose it is excusable given her time.
I feel like The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges is a book that most people seem to either love or hate. As a person who always enjoyed learning about Imperial Russia, who likes a good intrigue, and mythology, The Gathering Storm was right up my alley. If you find confusing names frustrating, or are not much for historical fantasy or love triangles, then perhaps The Gathering Storm is not for you.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.