Today, we have the honor of being the final stop on The Morning Star blog tour, the final book in Robin Bridges's fantastic Katerina trilogy.
Come check out our review and our incredible giveaway - featuring a Morning Star giveaway package specifically created by Random House - behind the cut!
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format read: Physical ARC via Random House
The resulting drama, romance and intrigue, will have readers on the edge of their seats, reading frantically until the very end.
Back when I was living in London, I found a copy of The Gathering Storm that someone had accidentally left on the Tube. I started reading the book during my commute, and immediately fell in love.
The Gathering Storm had everything I wanted in a good story: Russian history (with a slight twist!), the paranormal and a smart, level-headed heroine with admirable goals and ambitions. My love of the world that Robin Bridges had created only increased, when I got my hands on The Unfailing Light.
So when I was given the opportunity to host the final (!) stop for the third and final book in the series, The Morning Star, I responded "YES!" so quickly and with so much enthusiasm, I think I may have seriously amused Nicole, the publicist in charge of the series.
What follows is a review of The Morning Star that is deliberately vague, because I both want to show my love for the book, but I don't want to spoil anything for newcomers to the series.
Synopsis (via Goodreads)
Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.
Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancé, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina's focus remains on the sword. Russia's fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.
Things that worked:
Over the course of three books, Robin Bridges has done a fantastic job of developing Katerina from a smart but less-than-worldly student, into a intelligent, thoughtful woman who is on the verge of a great destiny.
Katerina's had several years (and three books) now to solidify her conviction to become a doctor, but she's also had three books time to understand who she is as a person. She's become more aware of her powers, the responsibilities that she has to herself, her family, the two courts and to the rest of the world.
She's also become even more compassionate, and more aware. Even though Katerina is frequently put into situations where people are trying to take advantage of her, she doesn't hold grudges. There is one scene in the latter half of the book, where she forgives a character for repeatedly putting her into harm's way, and tries her best to make things right for that character, just because she knows it's the right thing to do.
If I were a parent or an educator, I would definitely point Katerina out to my child or students, as a fine example of someone who embraces her differences and uses them to make the world a smarter, stronger and better place.
As for the secondary characters, they're incredibly rich in their own right. I was especially taken with the subtleties and complexities that Bridges wove into Danilo's character journey. In the hands of anyone else, he could have easily come off as a one-note villain, continuously determined to prevent Katerina from her goals and ambitions.
But in Bridges's world, she makes it clear that a character like Danilo has his own motivations, ambitions and even a humorous personality, which has just unfortunately been overshadowed by the desire for power. He becomes sympathetic and relatable throughout most of The Morning Star, which I think is an absolute testament to the strength of Bridges's writing.
* The relationship between George and Katerina
I've read quite a number of YA books in my time, featuring all sorts of romantic relationships between the protagonist and their respective love interest(s).
However, throughout the course of The Katerina trilogy and in The Morning Star in particular, Bridges does something completely different from all of the other YA books I've read before with her main romantic pairing: she solidifies the idea that the relationship between Katerina and George is truly a partnership.
They love each other, but more importantly, they mutually support each other. George and Katerina not only work well together defeating the forces of evil, but they also cheer on each other's slightly less supernatural-orientated ambitions and dreams.
They're both willing to make the type of sacrifices that will help the other one's goals come true, whether it's George doing whatever he can to help Katerina become a doctor at great personal cost, or Katerina doing whatever it takes to heal him.
I'm normally not the type of person to say to an educator or parent, "Hey, tell your student/kid to read this book, for good examples of healthy, smart relationships," but I'll make an exception in this case. Tell your student/kid/neighbor/whomever to read this book, because the relationship between Katerina and George is just so smart, level-headed and healthy.
* The writing
From a world-building perspective, Robin's writing is literally dripping with details. The reader can see everything about St. Petersburg, from the dusty, crowded street car that Katerina takes to visit the Tibetan doctor, to the ornate tarot cards that she and her mother shuffle when she's at home.
Between the descriptions of the objects and the scenery, Robin has also taken the time to weave in both historical and fantastical details that shows that Katerina's world is very similar to ours, but with that detailed, paranormal edge. Readers will appreciate the amount of careful detail that Bridges shows in explaining how Katerina's world of dueling courts, dark and light fae, intersects with the mythological/paranormal elements of other cultures, especially Egyptian mythology.
* The plotting
The plotting in The Morning Star is beautifully complex.
On the one hand, it moves incredibly quickly. Bridges wastes no time in throwing the reader into the story, skillfully including sentences or dialogue that helps readers recollect events that have happened before. As she catches readers up, she occasionally also throws in a revelation or plot twist, which will make the reader sit up and take notice.
On the other hand, the book also moves slowly at certain points, e.g. when Katerina travels to Egypt. Through the journey, Katerina (and the reader) are slowly caught up again on why it is that she's on this trip, and what led her here in the first place. It gives readers the downtime to truly enjoy the world that Bridges has created.
However, this eventually leads to...
* The ending
Without giving any spoilers away, the ending is a perfect closure to all of the court drama, dreams, hopes, romances and tragedies of the three books.
After a nerve-wrecking climax - including an epic battle that will rival any fictional battles that have come before, there's a closure to the finale - which is a bit warm and fuzzy, but still perfect - which will make the readers feel like they've experienced a full, complete character journey.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
In fact, Robin has created such a great cast of characters, I think that it would be easy for her to write prequels or sequels for any of the characters we've met throughout the course of the trilogy.
(*Hint hint* Robin!)
For future editions, I would also love for a family tree of the cast of characters to be included in the book. Bridges does an excellent job of detailing who's who over the course of three books, but unless you read the three books together, it does occasionally take a second to remember the relationship between each characters.
I highly recommend The Morning Star for YA historical fans who enjoy books filled with rich, glorious details, and want to spend time in a world that will make their imaginations soar. I also recommend The Morning Star (and the Katerina trilogy) for fans of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, and fans of Russian literature.
Now that you've finished reading our review, why not check out my Morning Star tribute post on Russian film adaptations, or Elliot's tribute post on Russian literature?
About the author:
The Morning Star Tour Stops:
August 19th: YA Bibliophile
August 19th: Bibliophile Support Group
August 21st: Candace’s Book Blog
August 22nd: Mom Reads My Books
August 23rd: Marmalade Libby
August 24th: My Life is a Notebook
August 26th: Imaginary Reads
August 26th: Reader Girls
August 27th: Kimba Caffeinated
August 28th: Page Turners Blog
August 29th: Book Rook Reviews
First, Nicole from Random House has graciously donated this fabulous Morning Star gift pack:
* Autographed copies of all three books in the Katerina trilogy
* A DVD of Anna Karenina
* A Morning Star pen
And because we want to spread the love for the Katerina trilogy as far as we can, we're also giving away a paperback copy of The Gathering Storm and a paperback copy of The Unfailing Light.
Enter at the Rafflecopter below: