I’m posting The Winter Palace review earlier than planned due to popular demand!
Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino
The Winter Palace is perfected historical fiction. The characters are lively, the plot thick and the details crisp and plentiful, yet not overdone. Eva Stachniak combines historical facts with brilliant, lyrical adaptation and creates characters that keep the reader turning the pages for more and more. The novel moves quickly even for someone not familiar with Russian history, and the life at court is expertly portrayed for the imaginative reader.
The Winter Palace tells the tale of Varvara, a young Polish girl without a family, who begins her life at the court of Empress Elizabeth as a nobody, then quickly becomes a spy for the royal ruler. Varvara is compassionate, smart, quick and most importantly, sneaky. She forms a relationship, almost against her will, with the slimy Chancellor at court, and begins her life as a palace “tongue”.
When Princess Sophie, who later becomes Catherine the Great, arrives at court, Varvara is assigned to watch the young, foreign princess and report back to the Empress. What no one expects is that Varvara develops a close friendship with Sophie and alliances begin to shift. The Empress, who is not left in the dark about Varvara’s actions or feelings, quickly marries her off to a dashing officer and removes her from court. The friendship, however, does not end and what develops over the years both at court and outside of it, is truly remarkable.
The Winter Palace is a fantastic novel that gets better as it goes on. The characters and the scenery are meticulously developed and made me feel as if I had my ear to the floorboard listening in on the action of the Russian court along with Varvara. This is an excellent read for historical fiction and adventure fans.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bantam. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.