Monday, February 13, 2012

The Winter Palace

By:  Eva Stachniak

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary:  Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power. 

Review: This was one of those books that you just don't want to put down. The main character Barbara or Varvara as she is referred to in Russian is thrust into court life at a very young age, first in the service of Empress Elizabeth, then later on into the service of "Sophie" a princess who would later become Catherine the great.  Both of Barbara's mistresses use her to their own ends, and she has to use her wits to not end up on the wrong side of two very powerful and conniving women.
     This book is full of wonderful details about what it would've been like to have lived in the Russian Imperial court, and to serve some of its most prominent figures, the characters have personalties that will have you thinking about them even when your not reading the book. If you enjoy historical fiction then this is not a book I'd miss. It's the first in a series so I'm looking forward to the next book!

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