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The follow-up to the #1 bestseller The Winter Palace--perfect for the readers of Hilary Mantel and Alison Weir. Catherine the Great, the Romanov monarch reflects on her astonishing ascension to the throne, her leadership over the world's greatest power, and the lives sacrificed to make her the most feared woman in the world--lives including her own... Catherine the Great muses on her life, her relentless battle between love and power, the country she brought into the glorious new century, and the bodies left in her wake. By the end of her life, she had accomplished more than virtually any other woman in history. She built and grew the Romanov empire, amassed a vast fortune of art and land, and controlled an unruly and conniving court. Now, in a voice both indelible and intimate, she reflects on the decisions that gained her the world and brought her enemies to their knees. And before her last breath, shadowed by the bloody French Revolution, she sets up the end game for her last political maneuver, ensuring her successor and the greater glory of Russia.
From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history's boldest women. The Winter Palacetells the epic story of Catherine the Great's improbable rise to power--as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne. Her name is Barbara--in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she's allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world's most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen--and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie's destiny at court is to marry the Empress's nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears. What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie's confidante--and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power. With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara's secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend--through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia. Impeccably researched and magnificently written,The Winter Palaceis an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history's grandest tales.
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