I do adore any novels about the Romanov empire and Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten didn’t disappoint.
First let me say, Alpsten masterfully captured the dark, somber reality of Russia in the early 1700’s. I could almost feel the bleak weather, the hunger, and the misery of Catherine’s (a that time Marta’s) early life. Tsarina opens with the death of Peter the Great as Catherine and his advisors determine what will be told outside the walls of his death chamber. From there we jump back to 1699, and young Marta, a nine-year-old girl who is sold into servitude. We’re pulled along as Marta endures the bleak and often traumatic reality of a woman in service until the moment when she is crowned Catherine I, Empress of Russia.
Tsarina deals with a number of dark issues including sexual assault, suicide, murder, and war. It’s definitely the darkest account of Catherine I I’ve read, but it was captivating, nonetheless—the dark side of a dream.
*I received a copy of Tsarina from St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*