The Gathering Storm is a Young Adult debut novel by Robin Bridges. I tried to read it in 2011, made it 100 pages, and gave up. At the time I chalked up my disinterest to mood, that I would like the book at another time. I told myself I would try again when I was more in the proper mood. This year I instituted a personal challenge by which I attempt books that I once gave up on… the ones I thought might be worth it.
Tonight I gave up on this book a second time… and 50 pages away from the ending. It’s just not worth it anymore.
Katerina (Katiya) has an unusual ability that she discovered as a child – she can bring the dead back to life. When she enters St. Petersberg society she knows that this ability could cost her reputation and her family’s social status. Despite her attempt to hide her powers they are noticed by a few people in her expansive social circle. Most notable are two very different and powerful men, Danilo and George. Both could ruin her if they spread her secret around. Both endanger her potential future.
Katiya is ambitious and wants to become a doctor. She wants to cure disease and save lives. Her powers jeopardize everything she wants from life… particularly when both men find different ways to threaten her.
Overall, I liked Katiya. There was something about her that kept me reading. I liked her wit and I liked her spunk. Those were the good parts of this book – Katiya being Katiya. In many different situations Katiya found a way to maintain her own point of view and be herself despite the odds being stacked against her; most notably one memorable time under compulsion.
The bad parts were numerous, but it took me over 300 pages to be able to articulate them. One thing that is really noticeable is how much unnecessary information Bridges floods into the text. This hides the fact that not much is actually occurring in the story. It’s dense and dulls what little sense of action there is for the reader. I found myself reading one out of every five pages and wondering where the plot was. I certainly don’t feel like I missed much even though I didn’t absorb everything. This is a heavily character driven novel filled with one dimensional nobodies. The only character that is halfway fleshed out decently is Katiya. The remaining people just distract the reader from not noticing that there really is nothing happening. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The plot, which is described so interestingly on the back of the cover, is all implied. The book could have been told in 100 pages. That’s probably, realistically, all the reader needs to go on. That was certainly the case with me.
So what fills the remaining 300 pages? Dances. And parties. And balls. And teas. And people. And people. And more people. It’s rather Austen-like in that regard (and I’m so not an Austen fan). Oh, and the occasional poisoning. Or ailment. Or some plot point involving duress so that Katiya can flex her medical know-how. The Court Intrigue in this book was the only thing that really interested me. However, after the initial introduction to the (numerous) characters in the story I promptly forgot who most of them were. So the intricate threads that were being woven were lost on me. I couldn’t keep anyone straight. And, in a novel rife with Court Intrigue, you need to keep everyone straight.
And the paranormal/supernatural element that I was so looking forward to? Watered down. And uninteresting after the initial premise was set up. It felt like mesh draping on cardboard, see through and insubstantial. And more smoke and mirrors. I sort of feel tricked by this book. It’s so many things I should like and yet so poorly presented. And yet I liked the main character. I just wish that she were in a different book.
It reminds me of Libba Bray’s historic books (she now has two series that I wasn’t a fan of). They both have the same heavy handedness to the writing. If you are a fan of those books this might be up your alley. If not, veer away! There are so many other books to read.
2 out of 5 stars.