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“Brutal, unrelenting, and inspiring, Tsarina is a historical novel that's as harshly beautiful as a Russian winter. Following the rise of Peter the Great's second wife, Catherine, from her life as a peasant, to courtesan, to queen, Tsarina pulls no punches and doesn't spare the reader's sensibilities. I was fascinated and horrified by the insights it offered into pre-revolutionary Russia, from the abject poverty of the lowest classes to the opulence of Peter's court. Peter, a perplexingly contradictory character in history, is portrayed with a dynamic flair as a larger-than-life ruler whose great ambitions and appetites sometimes brought triumph, sometimes ruin and horror, to his subjects. And by his side and behind the scenes, his equally cunning and ambitious tsarina both aided and thwarted his endeavors, eventually ruling in her own right. Tsarina shines a light on one of history's most fascinating women, and I couldn't drag myself away from it till the very end.”Emily,
“Ellen Alpsten’s debut is a riveting, delicious escape into the world of Catherine the I, Tsarina of Russia. My head is swimming with the sights and sounds of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Alpsten’s fascinating account reveals the unforgettable woman who went toe to toe with her husband, Peter the Great. Exactly the kind of book I needed to read right now!”Anderson McKean,
Page and Palette
"Makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme." —Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter
“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times." —Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author
Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten's rich, sweeping debut novel is the story of her rise to power.
St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.
Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?
From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.
A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press