Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Review: The Unfailing Light

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.    Quoted from Goodreads


I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the Katerina trilogy. If you like your historical novels with a paranormal twist, you should absolutely check out this book. I admit I don't know much about Russian history.  I did a project on Anastasia in jr. high, and I took a semester on Stalin and Communism (disguised as World History 111), but that's about it.  I have picked up a few things on Russian Folklore from other books I've read, but much like the Tiger's Curse series, I feel like I'm sort of exploring new territory, and it's kind of fascinating.  

The cool thing about this book is everyone (except Katerina) is a character from Russian history (and even her parents and brother are real).  You can pull up a family tree and there is George and Dariya and Xenia. You can look up their lives and find out what really happened to them.  At the same time, you know things can't go down that same path because in this book you have the political struggle between the Light and Dark Fairy Courts, you have vampires that turn into moths to suck your blood, ghosts, revenants, werewolves, and necromancers.  It's fun to have Russian history retold with a magical twist.

Now for Katerina Alexandrovna. I really sort of love her as a character.  In the end of the first book, she saves Russia, but things don't quite go back to normal.  The thing is, she's a girl, a student even, in 1889 Russia, and so they sort of leave her out of the loop. Sure, she knows more than her friends about what's going on, but not as much as she wants to, so she is always asking questions.  I really like how she pushes the boundaries of her time, but she doesn't (like so, so many books out there) come across as a girl from our time.  Plus, she isn't afraid of facing a problem head on and is even nice to people she can't stand or who try and push her away.

Then there's the lovely George.  What can I say, I kind of, sort of, love him.  He is flawed, and sometimes he irritates me, but that's what's so marvelous about his character. He is absolutely real.  And don't forget Danilo.  I thought he might be gone in this book, but keeps turning up just to keep things interesting.

As for this book, specifically, I really enjoyed it.  It, maybe, suffered from sophomore slump just a little bit, but not much.  The plot, or at least the main danger, isn't quit as good as the first book, but it set it up beautifully for the next one.  Despite the fact that a ghost isn't quite as interesting as revenants and and a vengeful, dead, would-be tzar, I still really enjoyed this book.  I grew frustrated along with Katerina and the situation she found herself in, and  I worried with her about George, the ghost, and when her necromancer powers didn't quite work as she intended. 

The good thing about this book is I found a  lot of the names and places easier to remember.  There are so many people on the Russian family tree and different palaces, I got sort of lost in the first book.  This one is much better. The different places and people are all there, but maybe I'm more familiar because it didn't bother me at all this book. 

All in all, this is a fun 3.5 star book.  It's got your history with a twist, great characters, and a unique setting.  Just a warning, you absolutely have to read the first book before reading this one, though.  If you try and skip ahead, you'll probably end up hopelessly lost.

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