I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on tour today for The Witches of St Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones.
If you enjoy historical fiction with all the decadence, opulence, court intrigue/betrayal (and the unexplained), you’ll love this story which is based on fact.
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Head of Zeus (25 Oct. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1788544021
- ISBN-13: 978-1788544023
Brimming with black magic, sex and intrigue, a gorgeous historical novel for fans of Dinah Jefferies and Santa Montefiore.
The Russian Empire is on the verge of collapse. Revolution is in the air. The starving stalk the streets of St Petersburg and yet the Imperial Court still commute between their estates and organise their lavish balls.
Two sisters arrive in the city. Princesses from Montenegro; they are famed for their wild beauty and mystical powers. Initially ridiculed and outcast as the daughters of a provincial ‘Goat King’, they react in the only way they know how. They befriend the isolated Tsarina Alexandra and, using their gifts, they help her in her increasingly desperate quest to give birth to a son and heir. The circle closes. The girls are the gateway. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools and charlatans all try their luck. Then in one last, doomed, throw of the dice, the sisters introduce Rasputin into the Russian Court…
Based on the true story of the lives of Princess Militza and Princess Anastasia of Montenegro during the dying days of the Russian Empire, The Witches of St Petersburg is a tale of love, lust, power and betrayal at the heart of the Romanov Court.
I must admit I enjoy finding out about women who have impacted on history (who, let’s face it, are often forgotten or buried) and The Witches of St Petersburg brings the lives of Princesses Militza and Anastasia to life.
My interest was piqued in the prologue which continued throughout the 416 pages. Mysticism and the occult is in evidence at key points (some scenes raising the hairs on the back of my neck) as is the use of elixirs/plant extracts for combating fatigue and lifting the spirits. There is quite a ‘Neptunian’ feel to the story until Rasputin is introduced to the court where I felt it became more feral and rooted in our more baser desires. I couldn’t make up my mind whether he was a true mystic or just charismatic, making people believe what they wanted to believe. I doubt there aren’t many people who haven’t heard of Rasputin (brought to the notice of my generation by Boney M’s song!) and yet probably not that it was Militza and Anastasia who introduced him to the Russian aristocracy.
I felt the rejection as keenly as the Princesses did when they first came to court, feeling affronted by the rude comments and very frustrated that they were being judged on where they had come from. With everyone determined to keep their place in the hierarchy, Militza (using her second sight) and Anastasia becoming close to the Tsar and Tsarina and holding power brings even more derision their way as well as making their own positions very precarious. Oh the rumours and intrigue! And the extreme lengths people are capable of! There is plenty of negative vibes to get the adrenalin coursing and emotions involved.
I have felt as if I have been living in Russia from the 1889 through to the turbulent times in 1916, experiencing halycon summers and bitter winters. The social calendar; the politics; the sights; the smells and the sounds have drawn me in and made me an accomplice alongside the ‘goat princesses.’
The Witches of Petersburg takes us on a journey of two naive young women who become survivors as they fight for a secure place in the Romanov court. I would love to see this serialised on our TV screens. A recommended read from me.
Living in Queen’s Park, London Imogen Edwards-Jones is a journalist and writer of twenty novels including the bestselling Babylon Series. After studying Russian at Bristol she travelled extensively within the old Soviet Union, studying further in Kiev, and her first book The Taming of Eagles was about the first 100 days of the collapse of communism. She is married with two children, and is a member of the London College of Psychic Studies and an honorary Cossack.
Connect with Imogen Edwards-Jones
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Read all posts in the historical fiction genre on Jera’s Jamboree.