Rated of 5
by Stephanie W. (Hudson, OH) Varvara the spy
The Winter Palace tells the story of the rise of Catherine the Great from charity bride to Empress through the eyes of her friend and "tongue," (spy) Varavara. There are nice parallels between the young princess and the narrator in that both are foreigners in Russia without parents or anyone else to look out for them. The characters are engaging and not always what is expected and the story moves along quickly. Fans of Phillipa Gregory will enjoy similar insights into the workings of the court and the monarchy. If you like historical fiction and glittering European court stories, this book is for you.
Rated of 5
by chetyarbrough.com Before Catherine Became "The Great"
Ms. Strachniak writes of the early years of Catherine the Great before ascension to the position of Empress of Russia.
Without knowing much about Russian history in the early to mid-1700s, a reader is compelled to rely on Stachniak's historical research for a believable fictional account of pre-"Catherine the Great" Russia. The author cleverly uses the invention of a female spy in the court of Empress Elizabeth as the historian for Catherine the Great's evolution from Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst to Empress Catherine II of Russia. Starchniak characterizes Catherine's entry into Russia through betrothal to Peter III, the Grand Duke, Empress Elizabeth's nephew and heir of Peter the Great.
Peter III is characterized by Strachniak as an effete leader that contracted small pox as a child and consequently suffered facial disfigurement. With little physical attraction and a possible medical inhibition, Peter III may have delayed conjugal consummation of marriage to Catherine. Empress Elizabeth expected Catherine to bare a male heir to the throne. When it appears that Peter III is not able to meet that expectation, Empress Elizabeth creates a circumstance for Catherine to take a lover.
Interest in "The Winter Palace" is kindled by a fictional character that becomes a spy for the Chancellor as Catherine is welcomed to Russia. Another spark is created with the characterization of Empress Elizabeth as a serial lover.
However, the kindled fire never comes to a blaze. Some sparks of believability and fire are in the relationship of the spy to her daughter; a few more sparks are revealed in the evolution of Catherine the Great from Princess to Empress but no flames burst forth to show the real hardness of Catherine the Great that must have been required for her to become whom she did.
Stachniak shows the reality of evolving mentorships and their eventual collapse that make the demise of the Chancellor believable but more could have been made of his decline.
“The Winter Palace” has the basis for a great story but it is not there in its current form.
[this review was edited to remove plot spoilers]
Rated of 5
by Annette S. (Duluth, GA) The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace is a wonderful historical fiction novel about an exceptional woman, Catherine the Great of Russia. Catherine was an extraordinary woman in many ways especially when making judgments and in her political courage. This is a very readable book and the reader has a great opportunity to see into the everyday life of Catherine as she grew from a young woman of 14 until she ascended the throne as Empress of All Russias. The book is extensively researched and portrays Catherine a a woman ahead of her time. She was widely popular and fiercely ambitious. A fascinating book about the lavish and byzantine lives along with the intrigues, gossip, rumors and treachery that flourished in the courts of Russia. I look forward to Eva Stachniak's next book, The Empire of the Night, which will continue the story of this remarkable woman.
Rated of 5
by Jane A. (Lakeport, CA) an unfortunate disappointment.....
Catherine the Great was truly a larger-than-life individual. I was disappointed by the way this author chose to tell her story....as tabloid material. I wish the author had told her story through a more worldly and knowledgeable spokesperson.
Rated of 5
by Angela S. (Hartland, MI) Wonderful blend of history and fiction.
The Winter Palace was a delight to read. The characters are well written, so that the reader finds themselves rooting for, or against them. The book is also a wonderful mix of history and fiction, and it is never boring. It would certainly appeal to readers of historical fictions, especially the history of Russia and it's fascinating leaders. As many readers will say, it was the kind of book I did not want to put down, yet also did not want it to end!
Rated of 5
by Karin D. (Glendale, AZ) A Good Read
For those of us who love Historical Fiction this is a good, richly detailed story about Catherine the Great. The author lets you "see" the events of Catherine's life and does very well insetting mood and character. Written in the 1st person it was a little offsetting at first but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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