(Cover picture courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.)
4 January 1744, Zerbst
She leaned forward, taking my chin in her hand. “You must tell no one what I’m about to say—not your brother, not even Mademoiselle. Understand?”
I nodded. Was she afraid that if others knew the truth they might convince me to run away, thereby spoiling her scheme?
“If the King approves of you…then you and I shall be driven by sleigh out of Prussia, all the way to St. Petersburg, to meet with Empress Elizabeth….She has selected you, my poor ugly daughter to be Peter’s fiancée. Unless you spoil things, the two of you will marry and one day rule all of Russia.”
I know very little about Russian history, so Catherine: The Great Journey was eye-opening to say the least! Did you know Catherine the Great’s real name was Sophie and that she was named Catherine when she was in Russia because of the bad connotations her name had there? I sure didn’t. That’s why it wasn’t only Catherine’s amazing character in this novel that appealed to me, but it was also the history added in.
So far Catherine is my favourite character in the entire Royal Diaries series. Considering that by now I’ve read over half of the books in the series, that’s saying something. In the young Catherine we see the effects of her abusive mother on her worldview, but also her innate thirst for knowledge that would carry on into her later life. This is one princess who makes a point to learn the language of her country and be a good wife if only because of her ambitions to become czarina. An ambitious princess? Shocking, especially in this series aimed at young girls (8-13). But is it satisfying and does it make sense within the context of the story? Absolutely!
The rich descriptions of Russian life are insightful and interesting without Kristiana Gregory ever having to default to Professor Mode and start lecturing. This is the kind of book you is enjoyable to read as an adult, despite being aimed at a much younger audience. Not only do we get to learn about Catherine’s private struggles, but she is actually concerned and knowledgeable about the world around her, including her future country. Amazing, isn’t it?
I give this book 5/5 stars.