Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak


Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5



Barbara Nikolayevna otherwise known as Varvara is orphaned and brought to Empress Elizabeth, her father knowing that his time might be short asked the Empress to take care of his daughter. The empress fulfills her promise to the book binder, and accepts Varvara into her court. Varvara’s initial experiences living among the help was arduous, and intimidating. It’s clear that she wasn’t born to be a seamstress, and worries about her future. Her life soon changes when she catches the eye of Count Bestuzhev, chancellor and spy master. She must master the skills of observing, listening, lock picking and spying. Varvara is to keep Empress Elizabeth happy, and report back her findings. Eventually she is given a prominent position in the court, and attends to Princess Sophie, the soon to be Catherine the Great. Varvara befriends a vulnerable Catherine and tries to encourage and protect her. When Catherine was left alone, Varvara was there. Through Varvara’s eyes we experience the tight reign of Empress Elizabeth and the rise of Catherine.

The Winter Palace is a great historical fiction novel, filled with great characters, rich history and original fictional plots. The story is told through the eyes of Varvara, and we learn about Empress Elizabeth’s paranoia, and strict rules. Varvara working as a spy is very entertaining. Catherine begins the novel as an innocent teenager, dreaming of her wedding. She soon finds herself in a loveless marriage and a doormat for the powerful Empress. Catherine must bare an heir, there will no tolerance for her if she does not. The Grand Duke Peter will not come to her bed, and Catherine doesn’t know what to do. Catherine learns to play the game, and she becomes selfish, manipulative, and spiteful. She remains generous and loyal to her friends. Catherine’s character is intense and captivating.

Eva Stachniak writes beautifully, and I was gently swept away into the Russian Imperial Court. The characters and descriptions are written so vividly that readers will have no trouble visualizing the setting. It’s clear that Stachniak’s undertook extensive research to write this book. At times it did feel a little long-winded, but that is something that i’ve come to expect from historical fiction. I thought the story was full of rich details, and Vavara’s fictional character was a great addition to the story. Overall, The Winter Palace is a great historical fiction novel. I recommend this one for historical fiction lovers.

11 comments:

  1. I have been meaning to read another book set in Russia and this one sounds perfect. I love a good historical fiction book. Thanks for the great review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my gosh, I must get this for my girlfriend. She loves historical fiction set in Russia. Thanks, Jennifer!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just grabbed this one from the library on audio, and can't wait to get to it! I love good historical fiction, and though I do usually read about England, Russia sounds like a place that I need to know more about! Great post today!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great review! It's been a while since I've read an historical fiction. This one sounds great with lots going on, and I love the cover.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I haven't read too much historical fiction like this, so I'm intrigued. Glad to see you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for the review and all you comments. Hope you enjoy walking through the corridors of the Winter Palace.
    Eva

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oooo I haven't ever read anything that focuses on the Russian Imperial Court, that would be fascinating I think! I found historical fiction novels can definitely get a bit wordy in their descriptions, but they also always paint such an intriguing picture which makes them so fun to read. Beautiful review Jennifer!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This sounds like a different kind of historical. Definitely not the type of story I'm used to, but it sounds intriguing. The spying part and the change in her character makes me curious to see how this all plays out.

    ReplyDelete
  9. WOW! This sounds like such a beautiful book! I've never read anything set in the Russian Imperial Court before and I never really planned to, but the way you describe the beautiful and vivid writing actually makes me want to pick this up! :)

    Awesome review, Mrs. Q! :) I totally agree that getting long-winded is common in historical fiction, but I'm really glad that you enjoyed this one!

    ReplyDelete
  10. There is something about Russian historical fiction books that really interests me so I'll be sure to check this one out now!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this! I'd love to read more about Russian court and I don't think I've read anything apart from Elizabeth's reign.

    ReplyDelete