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Tsarina: A Novel Kindle Edition
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"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.
About the Author
"A fascinating and extraordinary ride from slavery to royalty...[for] fans of historical fiction, Russia, political intrigue, and powerful women." ―Booklist (starred review)
“Alpsten shines...Lovers of Russian history, strong women protagonists, and sweeping historicals will savor this vivid portrait.” –Publishers Weekly
"A sweeping debut...Tsarina evocatively explores how far one woman would go to stay alive, even if it means serving a man with unbridled power and then picking up that mantle herself." --Shelf Awareness
“Astonishing...the ultimate Cinderella story [that] makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme.” ―Daisy Goodwin, bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter
"As detailed as the jewels and enamel inlay on the creations of Faberge...[a] crisp, elegant fictional account of history, woven with emotion and brio." ―Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife
“Gripping...Love, sex, and loyalty vie with war, intrigue, and treason to create an epic canvas as exotic and powerful as eighteenth-century Russia itself. Masterfully researched and beautifully written, this is historical fiction at its best.” ―Nancy Goldstone, author of Daughters of the Winter Queen and Rival Queens
"The extraordinary life and career of Catherine I of Russia is brought to life in Alpsten's colourful novel." --Sunday Times, Summer Reading Picks 2020 (UK)
"An entertaining romp through the endless intrigue, violence and debauchery of court life." --Mail on Sunday (UK)
"A vivid page-turner of a debut." --The Times (UK)
“Intrigue, rivalry, and sumptuous decadence leap to vivid life in this fascinating story of Peter the Great’s second wife...conjuring the gorgeous marble of the Winter Palace and deprivation of Russia in the 18th century, the perilous ascent to power of the first woman to rule as empress is a gripping and unforgettable journey.” ―C.W. Gortner, author of The Romanov Empress
“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times." ―Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author
“Luscious…Alpsten has clearly done some brilliant research. It reads like Game of Thrones without the dragons.” ―Natasha Pulley, author of the international bestseller The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
“Tsarina should come with a health warning―once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop.” ―Hannah Rothschild, bestselling author of House of Trelawney
- ASIN : B08472B34D
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press (November 10, 2020)
- Publication date : November 10, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 3492 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 471 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #88,693 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2020
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Even though Catherine is the narrator and is the central figure of the novel, she often feels like an anti-heroine. If she was a character in a fairytale, she would play the role of The Evil Queen. Therefore, I disliked Catherine throughout most of this novel and saw her story more as a villainess’s story than as a heroine. I found Catherine to be very tough and strong-willed. She also loved her step-son and tried her best to protect him from his abusive father. Catherine is also very loyal to her friends. Yet, throughout the novel, Catherine does many cruel and wicked deeds. Some of those wicked deeds were so appalling that it made me want to put down the book and not read any further. I often wondered if I should continue reading her story. After I took a long break I resumed my reading, but still feeling sorry for those women she had hurt.
Catherine was not only ruthless, but she also was very vain, conniving, and often made many foolish decisions. Catherine is a dominant character until she meets Peter the Great, then she becomes mostly passive. Catherine and Peter’s relationship is the heart of the novel, but I did not like it. Peter is a dislikable character. He is very selfish and abusive. I hated how he abused his first wife and eldest son. I did not know why Catherine stayed with him when he treated her so horribly. I don’t believe she loved Peter, but stayed with him for riches and power. I also do not see what he saw in Catherine. The novel does not explain Peter’s motivations. Even though Peter married Catherine and crowned her as his empress, I do not believe he loved her. Instead, he seemed to want a woman who was totally submissive to him and whose life solely revolved around him. Thus, Peter was my least favorite character in the novel and after finishing the novel, my first thought was I understood why his grandson, Peter III and his great-grandson, Paul I turned mad. They obviously inherited their madness through Peter the Great.
Overall, this novel is about passion, greed, and betrayal. The political intrigue you would normally find in a historical fiction novel about royalty is nonexistent in Tsarina because it focuses on the personal lives of Catherine I and Peter the Great. The supporting characters are all bland and mostly seem to be in the background. This is very sad that they are not given much attention because two of them are key supporters of Catherine’s rise from Empress Consort to Empress Regnant of Russia. However, we do not know why they would risk their lives to support her. We do not know the decisions that led Catherine I to claim the throne. I wished that instead of the novel spending most of the time on the relationship between Catherine and Peter, it would spend more time on how Catherine took their throne as Empress Regnant of Russia and her brief reign. With the focus being on how Catherine obtained power, it would flesh out the supporting characters in more detail because it would give them more of a role and personality. The lush setting is the novel’s strength. It shows the grittiness of the town of Marienburg to the glamorous court of Russia. Tsarina was also a hard read because it had many graphic scenes that made me uncomfortable for me to read and made me unwilling to pick up the book. The graphics scenes made the novel repetitive, and I found many of them unnecessary in Catherine’s story. Still, this book portrays Catherine to be a compelling historical figure, and it made me wish that there was a biography on her instead of just a Wikipedia article and more novels written on her. The novel still leaves me curious to pick up the sequel The Tsarina’s Daughter, which focuses on Elizabeth, Empress Regnant of Russia. Tsarina shines a spotlight on an often overlooked and forgotten woman! I recommend this for fans of The Winter Palace, The Romanov Empress, and The Summer Queen!
(Note: I read an ARC copy of this book in courtesy of Netgalley.)
It is at times needlessly graphic, and where contradicting accounts of an event are available, it always chooses the most shocking and depraved version and then adds its own macabre twist. There is a lot of torture and mutilation, described in great detail. The sex descriptions are rather tame by comparison and rely on romance novel clichés.
The story is told in the first person, but this person often sounds nothing like the illiterate peasant she is and sometimes like barely a person at all. Have you ever met a woman who describes her hair as "my shining tresses"? The dialogue is mostly ok, but sometimes very stilted.
I think it would have been a better book if the author did not shy away from describing the protagonist's appearance as she really was, blessed with a unique charm but no great beauty to begin with, and ravaged by a lifetime of too much alcohol, poor nutrition and 14 pregnancies. Improbably beautiful people aren't the only ones who get to fall in love or have sex in their forties.
Top reviews from other countries
once you deal with her rise and her place in history is simply a baby machine for Peter and therefore I am not surprised she isn't known widely. Really don't bother with this one.
Russia in the mid 1700s does not sound like fun. Fighting battles on 2 fronts (against Sweden and Turkey) and building St Petersburg, whilst experiencing 12 pregnancies sounds pretty tough. Add to this fighting off Peter’s young admirers and dealing with Peter himself and his capacity for immense cruelty (nailing caps to people’s heads if they didn’t remove them fast enough for example) means that Catherine is a woman you can admire. It has to be said, however, that she had a pretty ruthless streak herself and some of her actions are quite eye-opening.
There’s a lot of gruesome detail of debauchery, of torture and of rape in this book. This might put people off. I enjoyed the book for its ability to paint a picture of the necessity to adapt and survive. The story of Catherine 1st deserves to be more widely known
I didn't NOT enjoy it, but I'm not sure I DID enjoy it, either. It was VERY early aughts style of historical fiction - think like Philippa Gregory. Glossy but gritty, which doesn't make sense, and yet! That's what it was.
A point in its favour, though, is the sheer ridiculousness of Marta/Catherine's story, and the fascination that the author has for this woman.
It was waaaaay too long, though.