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I really enjoyed Eva Stachniak’s The Winter Palace and had been greatly looking forward to Empress of the Night. And while it’s certainly an enjoyable read, the sequel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. For some reason, Stachniak employed a completely different narrative strategy in Empress of the Night, trading in the lively first-person voice of Catherine’s servant Varvara for Catherine’s own death bed ruminations. The difference in narrators, along with a convoluted plot structure, makes Empress of the Night less immediate and far more confusing than its predecessor. While the action in The Winter Palace unfolded over years, in Empress of the Night it all takes place on the final two days of Catherine’s life. In order to span the remaining decades of Catherine’s life, the book relies on a muddled series of flashbacks, so that it is often unclear from paragraph to paragraph what event or decade is being discussed. While Stachniak’s prose is still lyrical and evocative, the book overall is not as gripping as the first.
The narrator does a lovely job with an almost impossible task, creating different voices for a huge cast of characters with widely varying accents. Her voice is very expressive and dramatic, which makes the audio version more compelling than the print. Her authentic Eastern European accent conveys an undeniable authority and makes the tale more coherent and enjoyable to follow.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Tedious. No connection with characters. This book was not enjoyable. Unmemorable. Lot of effort and research.