Review: Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

You’ve heard of Catherine the Great of Russia,  but have you heard of Catherine the I?  Author Ellen Alpsten brings a breathtaking glimpse into the life of Peter the Great’s second wife and successor in this work of fantastic historical fiction. 

Marta, whose reign name is Catherine I, is of humble beginnings, sold as a maidservant by her family in her early years, has cheated death numerous times and ascended the throne of one of the greatest dynasties the world has ever known.  This is the story of Marta, who the author describes as “the most powerful woman history ever forgot.”*

From page one, I was absolutely hooked by the beautiful and immersive experience of the author’s writing style.  The rich descriptions of Russian court life, courtly intrigue, the brutality of life in the era, and the visceral descriptions of Catherine’s relationship with the Tsar weave a difficult and demanding tapestry of this book.  Each part building upon itself to create a breathtaking debut novel from an author that will absolutely be added to my “favorite authors” bookshelf. 

If you love Russian history and can’t get enough of historical romance, this book is for you!  It reminds me so much of Nicholas and Alexandra  by Robert K. Massie, but with a beautiful modern historical fiction twist. 

This book is out on October 13th from St. Martin’s Press!  You don’t want to miss it!

Tsarina is on goodreads and more information on the author, Ellen Alpsten can be found here!

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! 

*@Ealpsten_Author tweet dated April 20, 2020


Review: The Four Symbols by Giacometti & Ravenne

Given that I am a huge history nerd, World War II and Nazi Germany are not really a field I’m super familiar with, but I wanted to give The Four Symbols a try.  I am so glad that I requested this book!  I am a sucker for political intrigue and I love a good YA fantasy novel centered around magic.  This book has intrigue by the tons and the magic is more occult-y, but I still found it really interesting reading about the ancient mythology in this book!

I threw on some Wagner (Ride of the Valkyries) and could not put this book down!  Set in the very early days of World War II (the prologue is set during Kristallnacht), the narrative navigates through several different plot lines that showcase a cast of characters from many different sides.  The reader is taken on a journey with SS officers in search of ancient artifacts.  Winston Churchill and the British make an appearance as they attempt to foil the scheming of the Nazi government.  We see French espionage, along with other characters who float in and out of the narrative as the authors masterfully weave the entire story together.  I really enjoyed the semi-vignette style of the writing.  A chapter can have more than one storyline playing out, though the jumps seem jarring, I would argue that this is intentional.  It simulates the fluidity of war and geopolitics.

This is the first book in a trilogy that promises to span the entire war, and what an opening salvo it is!  This book contains some graphic violence as it tackles literal war and figurative war via undercover operations and spy games. 

Other reviews have noted that this book reads like a Dan Brown novel, which I wholeheartedly agree that it does!  I would also recommend this book to fans of Tom Clancy, Stephen Ambrose, Dan Brown (obviously), and Robert Ludlum.  Great read for someone who enjoys war games books, international espionage, complex plots/subplots, and an overall engaging read about World War II!

You can find the book on goodreads to add to your to be read list!  Publication date is September 3rd, 2020!  A perfect pre Labor Day weekend purchase!

I received a galley copy of this novel courtesy of NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review!