The Winter Palace - Eva Strachniak

Title: The Winter Palace
Author: Eva Stachniak
File size (pages): 2649 KB (444 pages)
Published: 2012
Challenges: 2012 Support Your Library, 2012 Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction
Edition: E-book
Source: Library

Description: Tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

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. (via

Thoughts: The premise of the story seemed intriguing, especially since I had just finished reading the most recent Catherine the Great biography, and I was hooked.  It also seemed to be getting a lot of press in the blogging world in regards to this book.  I can recall that I saw this book on a lot of blogs in January and February and thought I would give this a try.  And even though I was disappointed with the plot, I was glad that I had read something that I wasn't exactly enamored with by the end.  Yes, I am generally a person that likes to finish books that I start, even if I don't like them.  I know that some people will say that one shouldn't continue reading a book you don't like, but if you read only books that you only liked would your tastes expand or not?  My guess is that if that were the case you probably wouldn't go much beyond what you generally read and expand what you do read.

Back to the book.  I thought that while the book started strong, the book seemed to lose steam rather quickly, making the book rather average (well, below average).  Its not that I don't think one should read books that are just average, but I also think that one should read books that make you think about what you read and why you read them.

Bottom line: It was a pretty average book, something to avoid boredom, although this book seemed to induce boredom on my part. Its probably something that is good for a road trip when the scenery isn't that great or you are traveling at night.

Rating: 2.375/5

Pages for 2012: 8881


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