Product Details: Reading Level: YA
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Source: ARC from NetGalley
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 her 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?
Well, I'm not sure what to think of this one. I should have expected an element of paranormal based on the synopsis, but I didn't anticipate the direction of this one. If Buffy the Vampire slayer went back in time to tell history, that would describe my impression of the book. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't a terrible read... but it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows either.
I loved the setting. Russia in the 1800s is a fantastic setting for a story. There is just so much that could be done with that setting. You don't get a large sense of what Russia was like during that time because the story focuses on the royal families. They are kind of "just there" doing whatever it is uber-rich people in 1800s Russia do: fancy balls, trying to impress nobilty, etc. There wasn't alot that made me tingle and get excited beyond the physical setting of the book, except for the MC herself. She wasn't the greatest female character ever written, but she had many positive aspects. First, she was super smart in a believable way. Love that. In a time where girls only focused on finding a husband, this chick wanted to be a doctor. I loved her determination. She pretty much told the men in her life to screw off because she was going to medical school, whether they agreed with it or not. It was pretty awesome. Her dad was supportive of her ambitions, which I thought was a nice touch.
Then there is the paranormal factor. Obviously, the girl can raise the dead. I knew that, even if the MC didn't. The purpose of raising the dead was unclear. Katerina thought it was a curse, so she tried to keep it a secret. Others thought differently of her abilities, which caused the majority of the conflict in the story. The paranormal aspect of the book was a bit over the top. You had Russian courts that sided with either the light or dark faeries. (Yep, there were fae in the book.) The dark court had vampires and witches. Very random, but a huge element in the book. At times, keeping up with the different types of vampires was confusing and difficult. It read like a Who's Who book of vampire lineage. There were also "zombies"-- warriors rasied from the dead by an evil vampire queen to fight the current tsar. Oh, and there was the lone werewolf. You never find out about the wolf, but you can guess who it is. Again, very random.
The plot was fairly well developed. It was consistent and fast-paced throughout the novel. You can tell it will be a series because the ending left a lot of loose ends to be dealt with. The evil vampire empire is destroyed, but they are pissed with the current situation they have landed in. You know they will be back. Konstantine's ghost isn't destroyed and can't be found, so it's also pretty likely he will be back in the next book. I did like that the MC, Katerina, and her love interest don't end up all gushy and romantic in each other's arms. The relationship between the two seems to be slowly developing and will continue in the next book. I am certain of that.
I can't decide on what "score" I would give this one. At first I said a 2 because I didn't feel much for the story or characters. I never made a connection to anyone in the book, so I didn't really care what happened in the end. But then I looked at other books that I rated a 2, and felt that might be a bit harsh for this one. It wasn't a painful read, and I sped through it like Speed Racer. My eyes didn't bleed from the experience, so I felt like a 3 was a more fitting rating. This one was "ok"-- I don't feel like I wasted hours of my life reading it. At the same time, however, I am glad I didn't pay for this book. I would not rush to the store to buy a copy. Wait for this one to hit the local library shelves.
Product Details: Reading Level: YA