Got to http://infinitereads.com for an expanded version of this review (with more humor, mostly.)
Katerina lives in a dangerous monster mash version of 1888 Russia. She’s a duchess with decidedly modern sensibilities who wants to study medicine. Also, she can raise the dead! Since necromancy is considered a curse, though, she guards that bit of information zealously. Her feminist leanings earn her enough hysterical outbursts from her traditionally-minded mother already. While she’s avoided both getting engaged and the supernatural so far, at age 16, Katerina is becoming a marriageable young lady. Not only does her mother not support her ambitions, but two princesses at her boarding school are determined to play matchmaker for Katerina and their brother. Unfortunately, the sisters are evil witches (literally), their brother is a vampire, and don’t even get me started on Katerina’s potential mother-in-law. If Katerina doesn’t marry Prince Evil Vampire Face (not his real name), her family is in grave danger. If she does marry him, she can kiss medical school, the dashing-yet-distant Grand Duke George, and the future of the free world goodbye.
While it has its flaws, I enjoyed this book. It combines girls’ boarding school drama and teenage romance with historical fiction and the burdens/joys of belonging to aristocracy, then dyes the whole cloth paranormal with an assortment of magical people and creatures. Bridges gives us a glamorous world, an exciting plot, and a heroine who knows the difference between a gruff but stalwart love interest and a controlling d-bag vampire.
I appreciate the amount of supernatural species Bridges builds into her world, but if you want to keep them all straight, you might need to make a chart. The climax of the book got quite tangled with different supernatural elements colliding, and I kept having to read certain passages over again to get the gist of the action, but the ending that followed the climax grabbed me.
Overall, a little convoluted, but between the charm of the setting, the heroine, and the romantic hook at the end, I will pick up volume 2!
*I received a copy of The Gathering Storm from Netgalley. No money changed hands in the course of this review.*