Author: Eva Stachniak
Provided Synopsis: Catherine the Great, the Romanov monarch reflects on her astonishing ascension to the throne, her leadership over the world’s greatest power, and the lives sacrificed to make her the most feared woman in the world–lives including her own…
Catherine the Great muses on her life, her relentless battle between love and power, the country she brought into the glorious new century, and the bodies left in her wake. By the end of her life, she had accomplished more than virtually any other woman in history. She built and grew the Romanov empire, amassed a vast fortune of art and land, and controlled an unruly and conniving court. Now, in a voice both indelible and intimate, she reflects on the decisions that gained her the world and brought her enemies to their knees. And before her last breath, shadowed by the bloody French Revolution, she sets up the end game for her last political maneuver, ensuring her successor and the greater glory of Russia.
Review: I would like to preface this review with the statement that this book is in no way a testament to the author’s talent. I read the previous book in this series, The Winter Palace, and was very engrossed with the author’s ability to convey the rise to power of Catherine the Great through the eyes of a servant who comes to be a close friend. Because that book was so well done, I was thrilled to be granted an advanced reader’s copy of the book to follow. I only wish Empress of the Night could have lived up to the expectations.
From what I can discern, the problem with this book stems from the way in which it is structured. The story begins with Catherine as an old woman; before long, she is incapacitated on the seat of her toilet with a crushing headache, pain, and the inability to move her body. As she contemplates what to do, she continues to reflect back on her past, beginning with when she first arrived at the Russian court as Princess Sophie to be engaged to Peter III. To hear about this time in her life was almost like a refresher course for the readers who have read The Winter Palace. I was interested, but I was also not; and unfortunately, that sentiment continued throughout the entirety of the book.
Catherine the Great’s reign was filled to the brim with personal and political intrigue, yet this book focused way too much on her reflections about past lovers. I wanted to hear more about the politics! I also wanted the story to stop feeling so disjointed, because the view of one of her attendants with a mole on his face could automatically and randomly throw her thoughts to the past. The structure of this story did not work out, and I really cannot envision people enjoying this book. If you are interested in Catherine the Great and this author, then I would recommend you read The Winter Palace, which covers her arrival to the Russian court to the coup against her husband to become Empress of Russia. If you want to read a book about the politics of her reign, then I’m sure you can find one as well, and if you do find a good one then please let me know.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is March 25, 2014.