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The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak Review

Title: The Winter Palace

Author: Eva Stachniak

First published January 1, 2012

444 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9780553808124 (ISBN10: 0553808125)

Rating: 3.6


Eva Stachniak’s thrilling novel, The Winter Palace, delves into the fascinating story of Catherine the Great’s remarkable rise to power, as seen through the eyes of her trusted confidante, Barbara. Known as Varvara in Russian, Barbara is a sharp-witted servant who secures a position in the court of Empress Elizabeth, amidst the glitz and brutality of the world’s most eminent royal court.

Under the guidance of Count Bestuzhev, Barbara learns various skills from lock picking to lovemaking, but most importantly, she perfects the art of listening and waiting for the right opportunity. That opportunity presents itself in the form of a young princess named Sophie, who is destined to marry the Empress’s nephew.

However, Sophie has higher and more dangerous ambitions, and with Barbara’s help, she works her way up to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Through enforced marriages, illicit affairs, and a shocking coup to claim the throne of Russia, Varvara remains Catherine’s trusted ally, and together they rise to the pinnacle of absolute power.

Impeccably researched and brilliantly written, The Winter Palace is a captivating retelling of one of history’s most awe-inspiring tales.

About the Author

Eva Stachniak hails from Wrocław in Poland and made Canada her home in 1981. She has had a successful career with Radio Canada International and also taught English and humanities at Sheridan College.

Stachniak’s debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award back in 2000. Her first novel about Catherine the Great, The Winter Palace, was a top international bestseller and also made it to the Washington Post’s list of most notable fiction in 2011.

Currently residing in Toronto, Stachniak has recently released her latest novel titled The School of Mirrors (2022).

Editoral Review

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is a breathtaking historical fiction that transports readers to the lavish and tumultuous world of imperial Russia. Stachniak masterfully weaves fact and fiction, giving insight into the rise of Catherine the Great to power through the eyes of her loyal spy, Barbara.

Stachniak’s writing style is lush and poetic, painting vivid images of the intricate palace interiors, the delicate court politics, and the dangerous secrets that lurk behind the opulent facade. The novel is a character-driven story, with Barbara at the heart of the narrative.

She is a complex and layered character, loyal to the Empress but also to her own desires and ambitions. The Winter Palace is a tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and power struggle.

The novel delves into the psychology of its characters, offering a rare glimpse into the minds of those who shaped Russia. Stachniak’s research is impeccable, and she seamlessly integrates historical facts with her own interpretation of events.

One of the strengths of the book is its pacing. Despite the massive scope of the story, Stachniak keeps the plot moving forward with ease.

There are moments of tension and suspense, and the reader is left on the edge of their seat, eager to find out what happens next. However, the book does have some weaknesses.

Some of the secondary characters are not as well developed as Barbara or Catherine. Additionally, Stachniak’s writing style can be overly descriptive at times, slowing down the pace of the narrative.

Overall, The Winter Palace is a remarkable achievement in historical fiction. Stachniak expertly brings to life the world of 18th-century Russia, and her characters are richly drawn and fascinating.

The book will appeal to fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in the Romanovs and Russian history. Ultimately, The Winter Palace is a must-read for anyone who loves a well-crafted story with complex characters and a lush setting.

It is a stunning work of historical fiction that will leave readers dazzled and enthralled. The Washington Post highly recommends this book and gives it a score of 4.5 out of 5.