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Pub Date Nov 10 2020 | Archive Date Feb 05 2021


"Makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme." Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter

“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times."
Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author

Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten's rich, sweeping debut novel is the story of her rise to power.

St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.

Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?

From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.

"Makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme." Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter

“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times."

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Featured Reviews

You've heard of Catherine the Great of Russia, but have you heard of Catherine the I? Author Ellen Alpsten brings a breathtaking glimpse into the life of Peter the Great's second wife and successor in this work of fantastic historical fiction.

Marta, whose reign name is Catherine I, is of humble beginnings, sold as a maidservant by her family in her early years, has cheated death numerous times and ascended the throne of one of the greatest dynasties the world has ever known. This is the story of Marta, who the author describes as "the most powerful woman history ever forgot."*

From page one, I was absolutely hooked by the beautiful and immersive experience of the author's writing style. The rich descriptions of Russian court life, courtly intrigue, the brutality of life in the era, and the visceral descriptions of Catherine's relationship with the Tsar weave a difficult and demanding tapestry of this book. Each part building upon itself to create a breathtaking debut novel from an author that will absolutely be added to my "favorite authors" bookshelf.

If you love Russian history and can't get enough of historical romance, this book is for you! It reminds me so much of Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie, but with a beautiful modern historical fiction twist.

This book is out on October 13th from St. Martin's Press! You don't want to miss it!

Tsarina is on goodreads and more information on the author, Ellen Alpsten can be found here!

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

*@Ealpsten_Author tweet dated April 20, 2020

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Tsarina was beautifully written. Vivid detail. It is a fictional telling of Catherine I of Russia the second wife of Peter 1 (I have not studied her so I can't say how much of the story had a touch of accuracy.)

I will say there is rape in this book and descriptive detail in adult themes. If you are sensitive these things, I would probably pass on this one. It is not an easy read. If you are able to get past the rape it is a very good story.

This is longer novel almost 500 pages. It took me a bit to finish it as I had to put it down several times due to the intensity of the story line. Even with the intensity and the rape I still enjoyed the story telling. The imagery was beautifully detailed and it made feel as if I was in Russia in that time.

I requested the book from Netgalley (thank you net galley!) as I have read several books on the last of the Romanovs and wanted to read a novel set in Russia as I find Russia to have an interesting history and a wonderful people.

It was a wonderful story and the characters have depth and you can see how Cathrine grew through the course of the novel. I will be buying a copy when it is released.

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This book was received as an ARC from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I have heard and read many renditions of Catherine the Great but none of them were as enticing as Tsarina. Reading about Catherine Alexeyevna before she was Catherine the Great born into poverty and craving the wealth and power she felt surrendered that she was willing to do anything even seducing the tsar himself Peter The Great. Now since his death, Catherine now has the power she craved which always comes at a price. The book revealed so many secrets such as brutal beatings, dark secrets and mischievous schemes all to remain in power. This was such a vivid novel that uncovered secrets we all thought were conspiracies brought to light.

We will consider adding this title to our Historical Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

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Very good historical novel about Catherine, the First, Tsarina of Russia and second wife of Peter, the Great. Marta as she was known rose from being a bought child of serfs to Empress of Russia. This follows her life through being bought at 9 years old, being a washerwoman, being forced into sex by her employer, killing her employer, running away, almost being forced into prostitution, being the woman of the hour on campaigns and catching the eye of Peter the Great. I learned a lot about this brutal era of Russian history. The characters are well defined and interesting. The historical detail was brilliant and finely researched. As this was the debut novel of Ellen Alpsten I would be interested in reading more of her novels.

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Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten is an excellent historical fiction (with a dash of biography as well but mostly fiction) of the life of Catherine I Empress of Russia.

We find that she came from humble origins with the given name of Marta, a Polish peasant, was able to escape a troubled and rough life, and ended up becoming not only the second wife of Peter the Great, but also Empress upon his death in 1725. I already knew a great deal about the Romanov dynasty, however it is always exciting to read about these historic figures in more of a fictionalized setting that is a bit more relaxed, then another history book.

Catherine, I feel, was a smart, creative, resourceful, cunning, feisty, and amazing woman that came from peasant/serfdom to a successful marriage and other half of what some consider to be one of the greatest leaders of Russia’s history, and then the first female leader of a difficult and vast land.

The 1700s were a volatile and difficult time in Russia, and for a woman to be able to navigate through these preconceived gender roles, rise through the ranks, maneuver through the backstabbing and aggressive politics of aristocrats, and become one of the most powerful women in history, is nothing short of awe inspiring. Was she perfect? Nope. But there is no way she could have been and succeeded.

This book has it all. History, strong, real-life characters, romance, and intrigue kept my interest throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed.

For anyone that loves historical fiction, romance, Russian history, and power, this book is for you.

5/5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for this excellent ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication.

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Loved reading the engaging and enthralling historical novel. The story begins with Marta's (Catherine Alexeyevna) family selling her to a merchant. Then, a Russian General Shermetev takes Marta under his wing until Menshikov, the tsar's most loyal and trusted friend meets her. Finally, the Tsar Peter sees Marta and wants Marta for himself. The relationship between Marta and Peter is close and loving at times, but Peter's cruelness and his mistresses are a hardship for Marta. Read the highly recommended, wonderfully written, engrossing storyline, and captivating characters.
I reviewed a copy of the book through NetGalley.

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This is a captivating and amazing story about Catherine I, the second wife of Peter the Great. Russian history is not pretty but the author does a wonderful job describing the political landscape and the characters themselves.
She brought to light a tsarina that I never heard or read about.

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Loved this book even more than I expected to. Brilliant job shining light on a lesser known part of history and captivating story telling. So pleased.

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This is an amazing story of Catherine the great along with Russian history. A must read for anyone who loves history and wants more information into the Russian royal family.

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I received this book to read and give an honest review from NetGalley.
If you enjoy 1700 historical fiction, this novel is definitely one to read. With many twists and complex interesting characters. It is a story told of Catherine Alexeyevna’s point of view. Of her early life, born into a harsh and desperate life of poverty and survival. Then down a path of misfortunes and events that would eventually lead her to becoming the second wife of Peter the Great, to whom she delivered 12 children, of which only two survived. She was eventually crowned tsaritsa of all the Russians and came to rule after her husband died. Romance, sex, infidelity, heartbreak, insanity and brutal violence, this story has it all!

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Tsarina covers the life of a woman that history appears to have left behind. Catherine I, not the more popular Catherine the Great (actually Catherine the II), but her predecessor, a former Serf, maid, and per this work of historical fiction, murderer. While little is known of Catherine’s upbringing, this richly detailed and well researched book provides an amazing story of survival at a time when women had no rights, rising above serfdom rarely happened, and death was everywhere.
I enjoyed the historical detail and getting to know a “forgotten” Tsarina. The book is graphic with both violence and sex. The violence in the book was unsettling, however, I think it only fair that to remember that many rulers at that time did not maintain their position through acts of charity. The rape, torture, and abuse depicted in the book was common in those times. Overall I enjoyed the book and found that once I started I could not stop, despite knowing a bit of how her story would go!

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This was a riveting book. As an avid fan of both Russian history and historical fiction, I was captured by Ellen Alpsten's take on Catherine I. Admittedly, the brutality of her life made for a challenging read, but ultimately, I was too captivated by the writing to put it down.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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So first off, I have a thing for Russian history and this did not disappoint. This story is about Catherine 1- I feel like we don’t hear about her often, and although her childhood in this book is fictionalized, it was truly fascinating to see Marta transform to Catherine. Trigger warning for rape. Thank you to netgalley for the arc.

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This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

A sweeping historical fiction of incredible life Catherine the emperess of Russia.
Ellen Alpsten, thought provoking decant rags to richly tale, of one the most iconic woman in Russian history.

Marta, a from the lowly class of serfs and the richly descriptive, sometimes brutal story of her long extensive climb to that of Tsarina. Realistic portrayed in-depth look at the turbulent and violent times of the 1700’s Russia.
This book will hold your attention from start to finish capturing the reader in such a way that you will remember this book long after you close the book. Incredible writing
An intoxicating glimpse of the trails and tribulations that are not for squeamish.
An unsettling, gut wrenching drama that unfolds stunningly through this thrilling storyline. From the vicious brutality that Marta endured to rise above, to the splendor and backstabbing court intrigue, that is just wicked.

Ellen Alpsten delivers an enthralling, riveting book, this one book you need to get your hands.
I will be purchasing the hardback copy when it becomes available.

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This was a great historical novel about Catherine, tsarina of Russia in the 17th century. I didn’t know much about Russian history before this novel and really enjoyed reading about it!

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The other Russian Catherine--Peter the Great's second wife! TSARINA paints a rich and haunting portrait of the cruelty, ruthlessness, luxury and poverty of Peter's time. This is a woman most readers won't have heard of and a story worth reading, full of insight and crackling with tension.

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An interesting novel that tells the fascinating story of Catherine Alexeyevna, a maid who rose to become Tsarina and the first woman to rule Russia in her own right (this is not Catherine the Great). She had to survive the dangerous politics of the Russian Court and hold the capricious attention of the complex Peter the Great for 20 years. Though, illiterate, she used all the tools at her disposal: wits, intelligence, and her charm to survive and thrive. In spite of horrors she witnessed and endured, she was also known to be compassionate, intervene on the behalf of others and able to calm Peter's lethal rages.

Rich in historical details, from food, clothing, medical practices, battles to court events, Alpsten did not sanitize history. It was a brutal time and those who have triggers may be disturbed by the rapes, torture, executions and untimely deaths of children. But this was not a gloom and doom book; it celebrated life and making the best of one's circumstances. There were parties, fancy gowns, friendships, generosity and compassion. Alpsten made up Catherine's early life for there is no reliable detail about it and were else she took artistic license I don't know but there is a lot of research that went into the book and many things are accurate.

I thought in the later part of the book Catherine's emotional connection to other people got lost among the events of pregnancies and battles. Catherine often left her children with Daria Menshikov yet they had little interaction in this part of the story though Daria was an important character earlier.

I was a little let down by the ending. The book was told from Catherine's pov until she's named Peter's successor, then the Epilogue was told by a French diplomat with a short summary of Catherine's reign. I wish there was more from her pov during her reign. It would have done her more justice.

There was one thread left hanging that I would have be interested in being explained: Catherine said Peter could have been saved if the doctor's gave him some medication but it doesn't say what it was. In fact, other than one sentence it is not brought up again. If Peter was dying from syphilis, as suggested in the novel, there was no medication at that time which could have saved him.

I highly recommend this for people who like historical fiction and anyone who enjoys a good story.

I received a free copy of this book thanks to Netgalley.com and the publisher in return for a fair and impartial review.

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I've always been fascinated with Russian history and always wanted to read more about Catherine the Great. I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. I thought the writing style was great, the characters came across realistically and the story was integrated well. I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about Catherine I and Russian history.

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Received this from Net Gallery and I thank you so much! "Tsarina" by "Ellen Alpsten" is a very very well researched story of the woman who was at Peter the Great side for years until he died! Told by the woman herself from the time she was forced to leave home until the time of Peter's death,how all of this made her the person she turned it to be. Russian history is one of my favorite and so I love anything I can learn about how it came to be! The writing is fantastic,it draws you in into Marta's world as she saw it,what ugliness she saw,what beauty she saw,what loves she had and lost,what roads she traveled to get wherever it was that she was to go and all the adventures she had getting there! This is such a believable historical fiction story written in the first person and when you are finished,you will feel as though you were this very young girl starting out in the cruel world of Russia and end up where? Read the book,then you will know the trials,the adventures she had to find Peter the Great,will her life be better for the meeting of it or will it be the worse? A very much read!!

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This is a rerelease if a historical fiction novel that I missed the first time, it’s a great and immersive story of a time period and place I don’t read about much. Very much enjoyed this story!

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Tsarina by Ellen Apsten is an expansive tale of the events and culture of early 18th century Russia. It is excellent historical fiction, obviously well-researched with attention to detail that brings the settings to life. There is also enough passionate romance and intrigue to satisfy readers of those genres, also.
This novel chronicles the life of Catherine I of Russia, someone of whom I knew very little. Born out of wedlock as a serf in Livonia (Baltic states), Marta, as she was known, grew up in an area that was in turmoil, fought over and ruled at various times by powers like Sweden, Germany and Russia. War and hardship were familiar and frequent. We follow Marta’s journey from her childhood (late 1600s) through her teen years as a servant. Then, with this as background, the meat of the novel chronicles her meeting and subsequent romance and life with Tsar Peter the Great.
Told by Marta in the first person throughout, her energy, enthusiasm and resourcefulness are apparent. The times were extremely difficult for a woman and a serf, and Marta sustains herself by any means she can to survive and elevate herself to the consort of the Tsar Peter. In times when men ruled absolutely, she ultimately gained their respect.
This time in Eastern Europe apparently was very dark and, it seems, lagged behind the cultural advances of early 18th century Western Europe. The author includes the frequent disputes, killings, war crimes, palace intrigues and the abject poverty of the serfs. According to history books, Tsar Peter and Catherine began the process of modernizing Russian practices and education. Ironically, she remained illiterate all her life.
The author’s descriptive abilities are outstanding. I really liked the first person narrative of Marta/Catherine. It gave the whole story a liveliness and believability that this woman was really someone remarkable: a survivor, a passionate lover and supporter of her husband Peter the Great, and ultimately, an Empress.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for this digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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A remarkable rags-to-riches story. Tsarina is the story of Catherine 1 of Russia., a fantastic political survivor Born a peasant, she never learned to read or write. She's noticed by Czar Peter the Great and becomes his mistress then his wife. She partied just as hard as Peter, and could drink most others under the table and had a huge appetite for life, which kept Peter's interest. She gave birth to 12 children, but only 2 survived to adulthood. This story chronicles tumultuous times when Peter dragged his backward country kicking and screaming into the (then) modern age. Russia was a very backward country. Peter was a progressive and had no problem brutally forcing the aristocracy to move to his newly built city of St. Petersburg, built at a staggering toll on human life in a swamp, as well as making them abandon old-fashioned customs of dress and living. When Peter dies at the age of 52, Elizabeth makes sure she takes the throne, the first time a woman has ruled Russia. There will be other Empresses that rule Russia, but she was the first and most improbable.

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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NOTE: I received early access to this novel in exchange for writing an impartial review.

An absorbing and detailed historical novel about Russia's first Tsarina, Catherine I (not the Great) who took over after the death of her husband, Peter the Great. It's well-researched, deeply engaging, and a fascinating glimpse into the great divide between the peasant life into which Catherine was born and Peter's hedonistic and opulent court.

While little is known about Catherine's (born Marta) early years, Alpsten has done an admirable job of breathing life into her history by drawing on documentation of the life of serfs Russia in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Born poor but beautiful, Marta is not surprisingly treated as a commodity, abused by men with power or money or both. Happenstance places her in the orbit of a powerful man at the Tsar's court, which is how she eventually comes to the notice of the Tsar himself.

By contrast, Peter the Great's history is well-documented and Alpsten's portrayal is quite nuanced. While known to most of us as the great Westernizer of a backward country, Peter does NOT come off as a hero. He is single-minded, egotistical, impulsive, and brutally violent. But as it turns out, Marta's kindness, loyalty, and love seem to moderate Peter at times, which the author seems to suggest is responsible for both Marta's 20 year hold on the ruler and her rags-to-riches rise to the exalted position of Tsarina.

You will also meet the expected cast of supporting characters -- power-hungry boyars, women exchanging their beauty for financial security, a disappointing first-born heir, and clueless doctors administering poisonous treatments. There's also plenty of war, famine, and infidelity in this male dominated world. So, lots of drama.

My criticisms of the book are few. There are a few places where the narrative seems to jump awkwardly. And I was disappointed with the contrived device the author used to cover the entirety of Catherine's actual reign as Tsarina. But I learned a lot about a little-known woman who exercised great power at a time when most women were powerless. And I enjoyed nearly every minute of the read.

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Ellen Alpsren did a magnificent job of keeping this reader entranced throughput the entire book. I knew basically nothing about Russian history going in and I learned so much while reading this historical novel about Catherine. This is a must read for anyone interested in history and what women endured to try and survive in a “man’s world”. Definite page-turner. Thank you for my requested copy of an ARC and all opinions are my own.

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Tsarina is one of those big, sweeping, epic novels that gobbles up a weekend and leaves you wanting more. After a slow start, the narrative really takes off when Peter the Great, Tsar of All Russia arrives: even prefigured in a portrait, he is a commanding and terrifying presence. Ellen Alpstein skillfully evokes Marta, the Lithuanian serf who, after much travail, becomes his consort, then wife, and Russia’s first empress to rule in her own right, Catherine I. Through smarts and no small measure of boudoir diplomacy, Marta rises, and her story is engrossing and exciting throughout. The author’s command of the period is assured and detailed. Minor characters are as well expressed as the protagonists. Tsarina is a love story, as lusty as the tsar himself, complicated by plots, lethal dynastic struggles, and the emergence of Mother Russia as a modern, Western state. Catherine Alekseyevna is an astonishing heroine, one the author calls “a woman who overcomes every obstacle, even if fate rages against her.” No less than Voltaire thought her story nearly as extraordinary as that of Peter himself.

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Tsarina is the story of Catherine the 1st, the 2nd wife of Peter the 1st.An intense story following Catherine, born Marta, from vry humble beginnings, being sold by her family, and eventually being noticed by Peter 1 to become his second wife. Life was not easy even then but, she become a leader in her own right at a time when it was very hard for women to do so. I confess to not knowing as much about Russian history as some, but, this book was wonderfully written, intense and kept me engaged. There are some troubling scenes some readers might not care for such as rape so I am just letting you know ahead of time.
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC for review.

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This is a book full of interesting tidbits about the life of a great empress. Well, not really. It is a book about the life up to the point of becoming a real empress. Alpsten's prose made me lean into it. Even the harsh parts of rape and violence.

The beginning of Catherine I's life is created. Alpsten mentions that in the beginning. Nothing is truly known about the washermaid of Russia until her appearance as the servant of a Russian noble. Then Peter becomes attracted to her. Much of their life is with her as his mistress/companion. Alpsten has drawn a character portrait of Catherine as dedicated to Peter as any wife up until certain events.

But Catherine is not free of flaws. I appreciated that Alpsten allowed us to see what might have been the true face of this immensely overlooked royal figure. Too many focus on the second Catherine--the one they called Great.

We see into the royal life through the eyes of a woman not born to royalty but determined to do her best in the position she finds herself in.

The book bounces back and forth between timelines so you do need to pay attention. I was eager to learn what happened after Peter died, but the story ended there. I was supremely disappointed as I wanted to know more about her as the ruling Empress of Russia. Perhaps Alpsten will pursue that part of this great woman's life.

All in all, I'd have to give this four stars. It did cause me to tell my husband to leave me in quiet because I was reading a very good book.

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From where she ended up I would have never imagined what Catherine Alexeyevna, then Marta endured growing up. The story paints the harsh reality for a young, beautiful peasant woman in the time that is heartbreaking and horrifying. However in doing so I gained a respect and love for her that couldn't have been forged on an easier path. Still, the hardships piled on so heavy I feared she would surely break. One after the other, abuse, loss, hopelessness, and yet, she wasn't hopeless. There is a turning point in her thoughts that occurs when her path crosses with a Russian general who gives her a piece of advice that she takes to heart. While things are still not easy, there is change and the feel of the story also shifts as you are taken from poverty to another side of life in those times.

Catherine Alexeyevna's life is a story I wasn't aware of in a historical sense, so can't attest to any accuracies but judging it just as a story, it is gripping and will tug you through a range of emotions as you discovery the epic life of a woman who refused to be held down by her circumstances or beaten by the cruelty of the monsters that are men.

Highly recommended.

Please note this story doesn't shy away from abuse and might trigger more sensitive readers.

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I love historical fiction, but don’t know much about Russia’s history or leaders. This book was absolutely amazing. I am not sure how true any of the life events were, but it didn’t matter because I could not put this book down. The multiple traumas endured by Marta seemed never ending and her resiliency was astounding. I don’t know if I would have the strength to go on after just one of the horrible events she suffered and although her tragedy seemed to continue, she never gave up. From a washer maid to Tsarina, Empress of Russia. My only regret is not having read this sooner.

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I just watched Hulu's THE GREAT and this is such an interesting historical work to accompany the show. While the show plays fast and loose with history by satire, this book is a must read for those who wish to learn the truth about the first Catherine of Russia.

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From the very beginning, Tsarina takes no prisoners and throws no punches. Marta, the future tsarina, is a serf bought and sold and abused in ways that are casually written in the way that this was a casual act in her time. She knows little happiness in teenage years, but chance circumstances and finally a stroke of good fortune put her in front of the tsar of Russia, Peter. Lest you think there is a fairy tale romance and a happy ending, Alpsten instead presents a realistic story of just how perilous the life of someone even as high as a consort, and later a wife can be. Peter is erratic, arrogant, whimsical and adulterous, yet Marta, now Catherine, has learned just exactly what he needs and expects. Walking a tightrope between his wild mood swings, plotting women, war and the heartbreak and joy of children Catherine does everything she can to maintain her position in the world. And who can blame her when she's fully aware of what it means to have nothing? This book is gritty, brutal and at some points hard to read, but is a fascinating look at two people in Peter and Catherine that is often rarely heard about.

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Compelling and eminently readable from the first page to the last, Ellen Alpsten‘s novel Tsarina offers a fascinating glimpse into the life, heart, and mind, of Marta, a lowly, illegitimate serf who rose to become the wife of Peter the Great and a tsarina in her own right. Marta, whom Peter re-names Catherine, serves as the novel’s first person narrator, sharing her fascinating story and enabling the reader to experience the life of a woman whose very survival depended on her wits, beauty, as well as a lot of luck and fortuitous chance. Tsarina is a must-read for any reader who enjoys a good story!

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Historical fiction gives the author a lot of leeway when describing daily activities of characters. In this story of Tsar Peter of Russia, a man is portrayed who is a brutal leader, takes what he wants, when he wants it. Marta is a young woman who through a series of brutal events, becomes Catherine, Tsarina of all Russia. I’m sure the author researched thoroughly, and that the facts regarding people and places are correct. I can only hope that the depictions of the brutal rule, wars fought and daily life of Peter we’re not as cruel as depicted. If they were, and he is considered Peter the Great, I shudder to think what Ivan the Terrible must have been like!

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I found this book absolutely fascinating. It not only told the story of Tsarina Catherine I married to Peter the Great, but contained quite a bit of Russian history between 1699 - 1725 as well. The rise of Marta in becoming Tsarina is phenomenal. From a life of dire poverty and illiteracy and only beauty she conquers the heart of Peter the Great. The greatest tragedy of her life is that through countless pregnancies she only produces 3 living daughters and no Tsarevich to succeed Peter. Throughout the book Peter by hook and by crook drags Russia out of the Dark Ages into the modern era, although oftentimes by quite ruthless means. Thank you Net Galley and the wonderful publishers who allowed me to enjoy this marvelous work of art.

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When I think of Russian history, my mind immediately goes to the fall of the Romanov family. So reading this was a really enlightening experience to learn about another point in time in the family's history. And I'm so glad this book was decided to be re-released because I don't think I would have come across this story otherwise. Great writing and the historical intrigue surrounding Catherine I made for a very captivating read.

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Intensive story of Catherine the I., second wife of deceased and ruthless tsar Peter the Great. From modest beginnings as Marta to powerful ruler of great Russia. What she has to endure and do to get such a power is well written in this novel.
Characters and atmosphere are deeply described, the story is fascinating.

Highly recommend it!

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