I have been fascinated by Catherine The Great since I saw a TV mini series about her when I was twelve (so innappropriate – I swear it is like I had no parents when it came to movies and books). I remember being swept away by the thwarted romance of Catherine’s life, so chances are good that this series will appeal to teens because this is one queen who definitely had her share of grief (and lovers) on her way to the top. The first two Stolen Empire books read pretty closely to my memories of that TV series. They focus on the dramatics – sex, love, cruelty and injustice. They aren’t exactly historically accurate, but they do entertain. They are not appropriate for young readers, but they won’t scar anyone who gets their hands on them either. Well, no more than V.C. Andrews scarred little ole’ preteen me (Heaven might have scarred me, actually).
Queen of Someday begins with Princess Sophie dispatching the assassins who attack her and her mother as they journey to the Imperial court of Russia. Sophie needs to catch the eye of the heir, Peter, and make a marriage that will save her country and her family. She isn’t prepared for the political intrigue or the endless games of the court, but her sensible attitude and willingness to comply with orders makes her a very impressive match, at least in the eyes of the Empress. Alas, her heart begins to war with her dedication to her family, and as Peter becomes increasingly strange, Sophie must choose between the future she longs for and the future that fate seems determined to give her. This is a romanticized version of what I know about Sophie/Catherine’s early life. Clearly, we all know how this is going to turn out, but there is something so engaging about the way things happen. The characters and the setting are vividly drawn and the romance will leave YA readers a little breathless when the other, strangely twisted love story isn’t making you cringe. I liked Sophie because she was one tough cookie, even when other people wanted to break her, she endures. There is some annoying poetry, so, prepare yourself, but as far as reading for pleasure, this book will certainly keep readers entertained.
Queen of Tomorrow picks up where Queen of Someday left off, and the pressure to provide the Empress with a male heir for Russia has the newly married Catherine . . . well, you know what she has to do. This book pretty much centers around that conflict. Peter is still crazy, and the Empress is still manipulative and selfish. Catherine is forced to walk a fine line and play diplomat as the intrigues and infidelities of the Russian court shift more often than the tide. As every happiness Catherine manages to find is thwarted time and again, she loses sight of her purpose and power. The question in this book is will it finally break her? I enjoyed this book as much as the first, and I think other readers will as well. Catherine’s biggest strength is her ability to gain the loyalty of people that other nobles have alienated or disregarded, but her darker thoughts definitely keep her from feeling too good to be true. She has a depth and awareness that makes her more than just a girl in a pretty dress, but that sometimes makes her seem a little older than the age she is suppose to be portraying. The book is well paced to take readers on a journey of highs and lows, and this one ends with a pretty intriguing resolution that will have fans ready for book three. Because this book focuses on the making of an heir, it is probably most appropriate for high school readers, though scenes of sensuality are more hinted at than explicitly detailed. These are books for YA readers who want drama, scandal, and romance, so if you are looking for a more historically accurate picture, this isn’t the book for you (the author, herself, is very upfront about that).
I received an ARC of Queen of Tomorrow from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.