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The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges
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The Unfailing Light

by Robin Bridges

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second in the series. The first one was better ( )
  TheMadHatters | Apr 15, 2013 |
3.5 stars

Russian history has, for whatever reason (ngl, probably because of the movie Anastasia), always been among my favorites to read about, in both fiction and nonfiction. As such, Robin Bridges' debut The Gathering Storm sprinted to the top of my to-read pile a little over a year ago. I liked it, but not unreservedly. The Unfailing Light is one of those rare cases where I feel precisely the same about the sequel as I did the first book. If you liked The Gathering Storm, good news; you will enjoy this one as well.

Oddly enough, the book that I am reminded most of in thinking of The Unfailing Light is Harry Potter. Of course, there are abundant magical creatures, but the real parallel is in the villain. Konstantin, lich (undead) tsar, seeks to return to power. Like Voldemort, he cannot be dispatched easily. At the end of the first book, they thought he was gone for good, but...not so much. The fact that he requires the aid of the main character, only to be foiled by her, brought that to mind as well.

To rejoin the living, Konstantin and his forces require the services of a necromancer, which our dear heroine just happens to be. Katerina dreams of becoming a doctor and has plans to attend medical school in Zurich. I love her determination to work in medicine, that she would voluntarily venture into a tough field where she will constantly endure sexist remarks though she has no need of a profession. She could live off her wealthy parents idly, or find a husband with ease. She, however, has bigger dreams. Unfortunately, Katerina's dreams, like many people's, get squashed.

Katerina, guess what! You know that evil dead tsar who tried to take over all of Russia again a little while back, who you though you killed with great difficulty? Well, he's not so much dead, or, at least, no more dead than he was before. Also, Katerina, this means that the tsar (the living one) who doesn't think women should be educated, your love, and your family will use this chance to protect you right back to The Smolny Institute for Young Noble Maidens. Even better, you'll get all this news from the guy you love.

George, Katerina's love interest, was probably my favorite character in the first book. He had this whole awesome broody, I-like-you-in-spite-of-myself, Darcy-ish thing going on, which I, of course, totally fell for. People who don't like Darcy often say that they doubt he and Elizabeth would work together long term, because he would continually try to boss her around. Well, I don't know about Darcy and Lizzie, but George sure is a bossy jerk in this one. Protecting the girl you love from harm is certainly a good thing, but not if you have to reduce her quality of life for all of the foreseeable future to do so. Plus, she should have a say-so. You don't just tell her what to do and threaten that the tsar will make her go. Ugh. Not to mention that protecting her means locking her into basically just that one (admittedly large) building for almost a year. She is NOT your crazy wife; don't lock her in the metaphorical attic, okay?

Of course, Katerina does not help matters by going along quietly. Me, I would have put up a fight. Katerina's intelligent and I know this and enjoy her narrative voice. She's also has guts like whoa. To protect others, she will stand up to anything, risking life, limb and reputation. I love this about her. When she's threatened mentally, though, she just does not exhibit her strength. She obeys orders that take away from her happiness (like going back to Smolny) and, because she fears embracing her necromancer powers, she does not research them like she should. If she embraced the practice of necromancy like she has medicine, she would be an unstoppable badass. You only have one more book, girl, so go read that Necromancer's Handbook and memorize the dang spells ASAP.

As far as the plot and world building go, I bounced back and forth, both in this book and the last, between having suspension of disbelief issues and thinking it's the best. Thinking about this, I believe it's because this is an alternate history version of Russia where magical creatures exist, but the tsars and everything are the same. I'm not sure what the jumping off point was, and, if it has always been this way, then why are the same personages in power? I suppose this is why so many historical fantasy books take place in culturally-inspired places, rather than the actual historical country. At the very least, despite that questioning, this alternate vision of historical Russia is engrossing and fascinating.

Yet again, I realize my review sounds way more critical than I necessarily intend it to (though I'm going to leave it that way because I did want to say those things). All of that nitpicky stuff aside, I blew through this book, eager to flip pages. The Unfailing Light kept me completely entertained, and, if I had the next book sitting with me when I finished, I would have happily started reading that one too.

This book has drama and romance and betrayal and a seriously creepy ghost and so much more. Also, I really loved the twist at the end that happened to one of the people in her family. It totally changed some dynamics in an awesome way. The Katerina Trilogy is just so much fun, and I will definitely be looking out for the final volume! ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
An enticing sequel to a fabulous and exciting series that instantly became one of my favourites. Robin Bridges does not disappoint. Once again she has crafted a mesmerizing, imaginative and entirely unique story that - and I kid you not - is even better that the explosive mix she enthralled us with in the first volume.

The Unfailing Light picks up more or less where the The Gathering Storm left off. After the battle with the lich tsar Konstantin, Katiya enjoyed a few weeks of peace. All she really wants now is to forget about the darkness inside her and move away to Zurich to pursue her medical career. Just when she's about to leave Russia, she discovers that the lich tsar Konstantin has not been destroyed after all. There's a traitor among the wizard of the Order, someone supporting Konstantin and plotting against the tsar. Katiya's life is once again in great danger. Ordered to remain in St. Petersburg, Katiya goes back to her old school at Smolny. But will she be truly safe there? What she doesn't yet know is that the protective spell cast on the school by the empress unleashed an old vengeful spirit and, while no threat from the outside can get in to harm her, she herself is unable to leave the school to escape the murderous ghost.

WOW! What a wild ride that was! Robin Bridges does a fantastic job interweaving Russian history and folklore with paranormal elements. She makes the already fascinating Imperial Russia even more sparkly, glamorous, sinister and dangerous! I loved reading about all the new dangers and challenges that our characters had to face. In addition to the already familiar threats - the lich tsar and the evil plottings of the Dark Court - Katiya also has to confront a vengeful ghost that is wreaking havoc at Smolny. Not to mention the darkness within herself that she struggles with. I felt that the plot of The Unfailing Light - while still undeniably eventful and rich in details - was definitely more organized, easier to follow and - most importantly - deeper and more meaningful.

The already large cast of characters and paranormal creatures from The Gathering Storm gets even larger with the addition of some great new heroes and beings straight from Russian fairy tales. We still get to meet all (or almost all) of our favourite protagonists (including those that we love to hate), but we're also introduced to new (and equally fascinating) ones. At the same time, we get to know our main characters a little bit better, learn more about their pasts, hopes for the future, and personalities. I enjoyed observing the developing relationship between Katiya and Goergi, but I also had a lot of fun observing the dynamics between Katiya and Danilo. I must say I liked Danilo much better in this book, he wasn't as cold and controlling as he was in The Gathering Storm, and I definitely warmed up to him. Plus, all the telepathic conversations these two had (thanks to their blood connection) were simply hilarious. Their often lough-out-loud funny back-and-forth made this book so much more entertaining to read! Most importantly, though, Katiya became a much better central character. She was stronger, wittier, more self-confident and assertive. She still internalized most of her struggles, but she also began to understand that working alone is not always the best option. I really appreciated the character growth in her and I can now say that she became a heroine worth rooting for!

Overall, The Unfailing Light is a fabulous follow-up to The Gathering Storm. A sequel that is even more exciting, more glamorous and more visually breathtaking than the first book! It has everything I loved about the first book - sumptuous balls, an insightful look at the political dynamics of Imperial Russia, heart-pounding romance, rich and fascinating Eastern-European folklore, and a fantastic cast of characters that you'll grow attached to even more! On top of all that, Bridges writing style is even more eloquent, seductive, and lyrical, and the interesting plot line remains complex without being confusing and overwhelming. I can honestly say that I loved this book even more than I loved The Gathering Storm. If you like Russian folklore, culture and history, this is a series you ought to have on your bookshelf!

Robin Bridges is no doubt a very talented author and easily one of my favourites! I can't wait to read the next book in The Katerina Trilogy and find out what happens next! ( )
  Evie-Bookish | Nov 6, 2012 |
GoodReads Synopsis: Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

My Thoughts: This seemed like a typical middle book of a trilogy…unfortunately. I love this series and was pretty disappointed by this installment.

Katiya does not get to go to medical school and the reasoning behind it was pretty weak. Most of this installment is about a ghost back at the finishing school, and what George is doing in this mysterious training he is receiving in France. Of course no one can tell us anything about what George is training for. And the ghost at the school will not communicate in any way so we can attempt to address that matter. All Katiya can do is wander about the school cuz she is trapped inside and wonder what is going on outside. Can you say “frustrating”…I knew you could.

One redeeming point is that we are all set-up for the final leg of the trilogy and George’s training in this book may allow him and Katiya to be able to be together by the end of the next one. ( )
  psteinke1122 | Jul 23, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385740247, Hardcover)

Lush and opulent, romantic and sinister, The Unfailing Light, Volume II in The Katerina Trilogy, reimagines the lives of Russia's aristocracy in a fabulously intoxicating and page-turning fantasy.

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

"Katerina's first-person voice is smart and believable, fitting well into this atmospheric romance."--Kirkus Reviews

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to forget that she ever used her special powers and pursue her dream of attending medical school but is under imperial orders to remain at finishing school where she can be kept safe from Russia's arch nemesis, until the protection spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school.… (more)

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