The Russian Debutante Girl-Power Vampire Handbook: The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
The Gathering Storm is volume one in The Katerina Trilogy by Robin Bridges, and it is thoroughly enjoyable as a young-adult historical fiction read. Our main character, Katerina, hopes to be a doctor someday, but as a Duchess of Oldenburg in the 1800s, descended from the tsars of Russia, she has no business becoming anything other than a royal consort. Fortunately, though her mother seems ready to shove her on any handsome, dangerous vampire-prince that comes about, Katerina's father secretly supports and encourages her dream.
Back to that vampire part … Yes, as seems to be the trend in young-adult fiction these days, The Gathering Storm is also a paranormal story. But Bridges cleverly incorporates Russian folklore and history in ways that make the paranormal addition totally seamless to the overarching story. A big reason that Bridges is able to write a teen paranormal story that actually works is that Katerina is a strong and active female protagonist, unlike in some other supernatural sagas out there. For one, her wish to become a doctor sets her apart from other girls in her time period, and imbues the book with a sort of girl-power vibe. For another, Katerina is not just surrounded by supernatural creatures -- she happens to be one as well.
Gifted -- or cursed, as she believes -- with the power of necromancy, Katerina is caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil forces that all want her powers on their side. She faces an interesting tension between her supernatural side, which is tied to death, and her "normal" side, which is tied to the living and to modern medicine. Her struggle is an apt metaphor for the science vs. superstition dichotomy of Katerina's time period, making the paranormal happenings even more natural to the story and historical background.
Fans of historical fiction will eat up Bridges' details about aristocratic Russia and nineteenth-century folklore, and fans of the teen paranormal genre will appreciate the Darcy-esque Prince George. What I appreciated, however, was a teen female character with agency and ambition, which Robin Bridges has so wonderfully portrayed.