Catherine the Great is one of the most fascinating rulers in history—a monarch whose thirty-four-year reign brought Russia into the modern industrial world, whose affairs were the scandal of her court, and who truly embodied the ideals of the Enlightenment.
In Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak you can enter the passionate, intimate, and treacherous world of Russia’s greatest monarch, Catherine the Great. For readers of Alison Weir and Margaret George, Eva Stachniak weaves a spellbinding tale of turmoil within a royal house, and the woman who would rise to rule all of Russia.
Two young women, caught in a landscape of shifting allegiances, navigate the treacherous waters of palace intrigue. Barbara, the narrator, is a servant who will become one of Russia’s most cunning royal spies. Sophie is a naive German duchess who will become Catherine the Great. For readers of superb historical fiction, Eva Stachniak captures in glorious detail the opulence of royalty and the perilous loyalties of the Russian court.
Read the excerpt here.
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And check out some great reviews for Winter Palace:
“This first novel in a planned twp-part saga, begins at the Russian court of Empress Elizabeth. Searching for a bride for her nephew, grandson of Peter the Great and designated heir to the throne, Elizabeth invites the Prussian Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbs to St. Petersburg. She also enlists Varvara, the novel’s narrator and a bookbinder’s daughter married to an esteemed member of the palace guard, to befriend and spy on the princess. Trading in secrets while trying to protect her new friend and advance her own position, Varvara follows the loves, disappointments, and successes of Princess Sophie, rebaptized as Catherine, through the last two decades of Elizabeth’s rule and the dramatic coup that leads to Catherine’s reign as empress. VERDICT Stachniak (Dancing with Kings) sets the scene extravagantly with details of sumptuous meals, elaborate wardrobes, and cunning palace politics. Longtime readers of English and French historical novels will delight in this relatively unsung dynasty and the familiar hallmarks of courtly intrigue.”
“Polish-Canadian author Stachniak’s brilliant, bold historical novel of eighteenth-century Russia is a masterful account of one woman’s progress toward absolute monarchical rule. For Catherine the Great, the path to her eventual coup d’état involves 20 years of subtle strategizing, intelligence gathering, and patience. Born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, this “pale, appealing sliver of a girl” arrives in St. Petersburg in 1743 as a potential bride for Peter, Empress Elizabeth’s weak-willed nephew and heir. Through the clear narration of clever, multilingual Varvara, the Polish bookbinder’s daughter who becomes her servant, friend, and spy, readers follow Catherine from her early years of barrenness and disfavor through her even more demoralizing years of motherhood. While Elizabeth tolerates and even encourages Catherine’s sexual liaisons, she separates her from her children. During the massive rebuilding of the Winter Palace and war with Prussia, which impoverish Elizabeth’s subjects, a steelier, more confident Catherine emerges. Varvara, too, gradually awakens to her own inner strength. Stachniak captures dramatic moments with flair, and the Russian imperial court—with its fox-fur blankets, gilded furniture, and carafes of cherry vodka—appears in glorious splendor. This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”
And the good news is Eva is at work on her next novel about Catherine the Great, which Bantam will publish in 2013.