Monday, April 8, 2013

The Gathering Storm - Robin Bridges

There are plenty of fantasy fiction books out there for teenage girls, some have strong literary value and some…don’t.  The Gathering Storm is one of those that lies in between.  The story is completely engaging, the characters and relationships are interesting and teenage girls would love it, it doesn't hurt that it is a trilogy as well.  It follows a pretty standard teen girl fiction formula centered around a heroine who is special in some way, supernatural or not.   She is strong willed and she is asked to put her life on the line to save others; and of course there is the obligatory love triangle between the heroine and two suitors.  The Gathering Storm, while not quite classroom quality writing is something that a teen will gain valuable information from.
The story is set in 19th century Russia and follows the exploits of Katerina Alexandrovna, a teenage girl and a member of the Russian Aristocracy.  Katerina, or Katiya is a Duchess and attends a finishing school with other young female aristocrats.  She is different from them in that she has no interest in marrying a prince and elevating her station, she wants to elevate herself by becoming a doctor, something that was not allowed for women in Russia at the time.  She is also different from her classmates because she has a supernatural power which she tries very hard to keep hidden.  But eventually it becomes more and more difficult to hide her secret because there are many other supernatural beings in the Russian court and some of them want to use her powers for evil.  There is much happening behind closed doors, secret plans are being hatched by the dark court to take over the light court and the throne; Katiya is part of the dark court, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that she or her abilities have to be bad.  Katerina struggles with her gift, believing that it is a curse, she is determined to do good and her actions throughout the novel prove that her ‘curse’ has the power to save lives and prove that the nature of her abilities do not define her, she has the power to define them.
The Author, Robin Bridges, made sure to include some accurate historical information which adds some knowledge building value, familiarizing the reader with great Russian composers, scientists and the general history of the era.  I also felt that the message the book offers about creating one’s own destiny (being born with a dark gift doesn't mean you are destined for evil) was worthy of some brownie points. 
Overall it was an interesting and engaging read, well phrased and organized, not perfect but definitely something that I would endorse for the teen girl readership.

This Website provides a timeline that would help the reader organize and make sense of some of the historically accurate elements of the text and really turn this read into a learning experience.


Zak Quiggle said...

Hello, fellow teen-girl-with-a-dark-powerful-secret fantasy reader! "The Gathering Storm" sounds like it was similar thematically in more than a few ways to "Seraphina." What with the 'curses' and the 'creating one's own destiny' and the like. One thing it sounds like "Storm" had that the other didn't is the fun bonus of elements of historical fiction, for which I'm a complete sucker. I don't know why, but I love when fictional characters run into real historical figures and alter the course of history. I like "Forrest Gump." Would you say the historical elements are probably the most valuable part of the book for a student reader? That they could get some valuable facts to stick? Assuming it's not a study in great dialogue or replete with intricate symbolism...

And you're completely right about fantasy's ability to cover the entire spectrum of quality; there's definitely some stuff that's churned out. But this sounds like it'd be good enough to give an avid student reader for weekend reading.

Samantha said...

As you've pointed out, there are a lot of options out there in the genre of strong female character with some supernatural quality. While some are better than others, after your review I'd give this one a shot. I think the setting is unique, as I haven't read much literature set in Russia, especially from a teen's point-of-view. I think it could help students gain some insight historically and culturally. It's important, especially for younger students, to read about people of different cultures from an early age. And I'm always a sucker for a book with a strong female lead!

Clarice Howard said...

I think that it is interesting that there is a love triangle. It seems that all YAL novels geared towards young women have some type of love triangle. I do not think that this is something good to be teaching young women in middle or high school. I understand that these love triangles make things interesting and then we all have to pick a team like Team Peta or Team Gale in the hunger games. I hate this part, even though I always pick a team in situations like these. Girls are going to get the wrong idea from a situation like these and this is not something we need to show as a positive.