Makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme.” —Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter
“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times.” —Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author
Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten’s rich, sweeping debut novel is the story of her rise to power.
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.
Catherine learned at an early age how to take care of herself. She was actually from one of the poorest families in the area. And due to several intriguing circumstances, she ends up as the Tsarina to all of Russia. Catherine was extremely intelligent, even though she never learned to read. She had and intuitiveness which helped her to achieve goals way beyond anyone’s expectations.
I fluctuated between 4 and 5 stars on this one. It is not without problems. But I was captivated. This is the first Catherine I novel I have read. I loved this time period. And I think she is truly one of the most fascinating of all the historical women. The author did a fabulous job with the research and with the realities surrounding this unique monarch.
Like I said earlier, this novel has a few problems. It is slow to start. Plus, at the first of this book several of the same type of things happen to Catherine. I don’t want to give anything away. But I had the thought…if this happens ONE MORE TIME! Luckily, as the book moves along the writing takes on a very good rhythm and I did not want to stop reading. I found myself very caught up in the life of Catherine as well as Peter the Great.
This is a gripping tale you do not want to miss!
Grab your copy today!
I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
ELLEN ALPSTEN was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands. Upon graduating from L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, she worked as a news anchor for Bloomberg TV London. Whilst working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work and a nap. Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons and a moody fox red Labrador. Tsarina is her debut novel.