Sunday 17 May 2020

#BlogTour Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten.
About the Author
Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. Whilst studying for her Msc in PPE she won the Grande École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing. Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London. She contributes to international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint and Conde Nast Traveller. Tsarina is her first novel. She lives in London with her husband and three children.

Follow @Ealpsten_author on Twitter, on Goodreads, on AmazonBuy Tsarina

About the book
Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia's young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process. Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp.

One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter's court, and more importantly, Peter himself?

Moments away from changing the destiny of his second wife, the tsar of Russia never completes his task to name an heir, and Catherine takes the opportunity to take a firm hold on the power and the country.

The tagline for this book is spot on - The most powerful woman history forgot. Everyone loves a bit of Catherine the Great, but what about Marta, Catherine I of Russia? She paved the way for Catherine the Great and other women who came before and after her. For someone who was a serf and illiterate she added her own touch after the reign of a ruler who changed the political, legal and architectural landscape of Russia. Her reasonable changes enhanced the strides Peter the Great achieved.

Alpsten strips away the myth that has been built over the years, the narrative of the lovely calm woman who ruled alone for a short period of time with patience. Instead she tells the more realistic tale of a woman determined and cunning enough to survive the manipulations of the Russian court. A woman humiliated, tortured and consumed with sorrow, and yet ultimately she was a survivor.

It's not a pretty tale - some of these Peters were a often a screw short of a plank to be nailed into. If anything this fictional tale explains in part why centuries later the peasants rose up.

The author does take a few historical liberties in the name of creativity, fiction and art, but that's only to be expected with historical fiction. It's written in lyrical prose and in a way that takes you back to Russian literature.

Buy Tsarina at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; pub date 14 May 2020 | Hardback £16.99 | eBook £14.26. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Waterstones.

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