Author: Ellen Alpsten
Published by: St. Martin's Press on Nov. 10, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: St. Martin's Press
Book Rating: 8.5/10
St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.
Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?
From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.”
Fascinating, insightful, and engaging!
Tsarina is an intriguing interpretation of the rags-to-riches, extraordinary life of Marta Helena Skowrońska (Catherine I of Russia), who started life as the illegitimate child of a peasant and was subsequently sold into slavery, widowed, and sexually violated before becoming the mistress of Peter the Great, and later his wife and successor to the Russian throne, holding the title of Empress of Russia until her untimely death in 1727.
The prose is vivid and rich. The characters are bold, remorseless, and well-drawn. And the plot is an absorbing, sweeping saga of all the hopes, fears, sacrifices, struggles, treachery and entangled relationships found in one of the most powerful families to ever rule the Russian Empire.
Tsarina is, ultimately, a story about life, loss, love, politics, power, war, corruption, greed, riches, fervour, desires, sacrifice, savagery, violence, and murder. It’s a perceptive, alluring, compelling tale by Alpsten that does a beautiful job of highlighting her impressive research and considerable knowledge into the infamous Romanov family, especially those who reigned in the late seventeenth, early eighteenth century and their undeniable influence on Russian history.
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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.