The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

8/10 A timely warning to those whom seek to elevate themselves above their positions

Eva Stachniak's The Winter Palace is a timely warning to those whom seek to elevate themselves above their positions. Within the Imperial Court the walls have eyes and ears.

For those of you whom have never heard of Catherine the Great - you will have, once you finish this book. I, for one, knew of her, but didn't know the backstory of her ascendance to the Russian Throne.

We are taken on a journey of an orphan girl who loses her parents and is brought to the Imperial Palace of Russia; where current regent, Elizabeth, honours the young girl’s father’s wishes; to be looked after, should anything happen to her parents.

Varvara's journey is one I have read a many time before, a young women without a future, brought into the intrigues of a court that wishes for nothing and demands everything of its young servants. A tale of friendship, where those closest to you turn on you, those whom you thought you could never trust begin to form alliances with you. And all the while, a young girl is trying to ensure that her life continues.

Varvara's tale is not unique, but it is one that is interesting enough to spend a day or two reading about. The re-telling of the court intrigues is one that will ensure the reader stays within the confines of the book and the storyteller. And the storyteller is central to this tale; you cannot put it down because it is so intricately woven together. Each word, each description of the Grand Palace absorbs you into the world where nothing is sacred, and absolute power knows no bounds. Elizabeth, All Empress of Russia is a cunning character readers may have come across in other books, but, Stachniak’s eloquence and coercion of words and characters  will leave you wanting more; and if not; at least you will feel the rage and the urge to punch a few of the characters in the face, metaphorically speaking.

It is a tale I enjoyed reading, and felt satisfied with the ending. The one thing I did learn from the books, as I have learnt before, is to remember that those in power have a lot to protect and that anyone can become a pawn within a game; and as the game grows, the nets become deeper and loyalties that once existed, crumble, just as palaces and regents do.

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