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Reflections of a Bibliophilic Barista

a caffeine addicts reviews of YA books with a few extras…

Reflection – The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges

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the unfailing lightSeries: Katerina Trilogy (Book 2)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy/Paranormal
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books)
Hit the shelves on: October, 9 2012
Pages:308
Find on Barnes & Noble
ISBN: 9780385740241

Summary (from Goodreads)

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 Rating:4

**This review contains spoilers from the first book in the series, The Gathering Storm**

How’d it get on my shelf?

I could not walk past this cover without picking it up one day in Barnes & Noble; it was so beautiful and eye-catching… so I found it on the list of Goodreads giveaways and entered to win. I was so excited a couple weeks later (**seriously… I never win anything**) when I checked my e-mail saying that I won and a signed copy was in the mail (Thanks Robin Bridges!). Anyway, I immediately got the first book on my Nook and began my adventure back to 19th century Russia’s court intrigue, balls, and power struggles.

My Thoughts…

A little recap of what is has been going on up until this point:

  • tsar Alexander Alexandrovich III (known by some as “Sasha the Bear”) is married to the Empress Dagmarof of Denmark, also the faery head of the Light Court
    • currently in line to become the next tsar is their eldest son, the tsarevitch, Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich
    • the middle son, Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, is in line to become the next Koldun (who’s identity is supposed to be unknown)… and also **slight swoon** sworn by the ghost of tsar Pavlov to protect Katerina
  • Grand Duke Vladmir Alexandrovich (the tsars brother) is married to the faery head of the Dark Court, Grand Duchess “Meichen” (Maria Pavlovna)
  • the undead (lich) tsar Konstantin is attempting to bring back his undead minions (the Dekebristi) to take the throne from the current tsar
  • The Order of St. John of Jerusalem are sworn to protect the Imperial family from vampires
    • The Order of Lazarus is now an undead faction of this order led by Count Chermenensky
    • The Koldun is the wizard of the inner circle of the order loyal to, and sworn to help and protect the tsar
  • Petya (Katerina’s brother) is a soldier in the Order, and often consults with their father who was a previous member of the order
    • they are the only two family members who know about Katerinas “curse”
  • Katerina is now the official necromancer sworn to tsar Alexander… whose job it is to invoke the bogatyr if Russia has need of this protection
    • the bogatyr is a warrior tsar brought forth to protect Russia from dark threats (only a powerful necromancer can perform this ritual)
  • there are all sorts of Vampires in Russia…
    • Crown Prince Danillo of Montenegro is a Vladiki (powerful male blood drinkers)
    • The Montenegrin Princesses (including Katerina’s schoolmate Elena) are not witches, but female vampires who turn into poisonous moths to take blood from sleeping victims (known as veshitzas)
    • upyri are the worst of the bloodsuckers, and barely considered human anymore
  • there are three types of undead…
    • the Dekebristi are the undead minions created for Konstantin by his (now dead) wife Johanna
    • ghouls feast on the flesh of humans
    • revenants are always hungry but tend to eat their own flesh
  • Dr. Badmaev is a Tibetan doctor of “far eastern” medicine who helps Katerina and seems to know how to treat the “stranger” illnesses

I felt a lot better about knowing what was going on throughout this book, a lot of the confusion (especially with the many long names and court intrigue) I felt after the first book was cleared up **so nicely that I was able to recap some of it above**

Katerina finds herself once again stuck at The Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, much to her dismay, and without her cousin Dariya for support. Dariya has moved on to take a place in the Dark Court as a lady in waiting to Grand Duchess Meichen. **personally, I wish Dariya had been around more often in this book because I still love her character** The Imperial family, including Katerina’s “secret/forbidden/light court” love George Alexandrovich, all feel this is a safer place for her with Konstantin’s whereabouts being unknown. But, Katerina may soon find out that “safe” is no longer a word she can be familiar with as the courts official necromancer, and a would be valuable asset for all involved in Russia’s secret power struggle.

Back at Smolny Katerina finds herself once again stuck with Princess Elena **sigh, I actually ended up liking the evil bloodsucker this time around** along with some familiar faces, and some new roommates. Princess Alix of Hesse plays a much larger part in this part of the trilogy, and is still as mysterious/shy as ever. Katerina also has to deal with a haunting disturbing the halls of her reform school. Since Katerina is my favorite type of heroine (the kind that rushes head first into every situation without thinking twice… well even thinking once half the time), she feels the need to investigate the ghosts presence (which may get her in trouble in the one place she’s put to stay out of it).

As far as romance, this book jumped on that train far quicker (thankfully!), as Katerina and George continue to try and find a way to avoid their dark court light court differences. And since no young adult romance is complete without a love triangle, Danillo is still trying to find a way to use the blood bond between them to ensnare Katerina in an engagement once more. I **strangely for me** couldn’t decide who I wanted her to be with for a while, even though I knew Danillo is an evil vamp with his own agenda… so I must say bravo Robin Bridges for creating such an alluring protagonist. My only slight irritation with the romantic aspect of this book is the unexplained hot and cold of the Grand Duke… along with the fact that I still really don’t know why he fell in love with Katerina in the first place (but that may just be me being picky).

Conclusion…

I loved every minute I spent traveling back to the Russian Imperial Court. Robin Bridges did a great job of sucking me in to all the balls, palaces, and fights. This book moved much quicker for me, and the plot was still just as captivating. I only ended up guessing a couple things that happened, and in the end all of the things I was confused about and extra plot points added tied together nicely. There were only a few little things that kept this from being five stars for me. Even though the romance was there from the start, there were some large gaps I wish would have had more. The many paranormal creatures, which at first confused me and I felt weren’t an expected part of the story, eventually ended up making more sense. I’m excited for the next part of Katerina’s story, and will recommend this book to fans of the genre.

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