Two young women, caught in the landscape of shifting allegiances, navigate the treacherous waters of palace intrigue. Barbara is a servant who will become one of Russia's most cunning royal spies. Sophia is a pretty, naive German duchess who will become Catherine the Great. For readers of superb historical fiction, Eva Stachniak captures in glorious detail the opulence of royalty and the perilous loyalties of the Russian court.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
This court is a new world to you, I could have said to her, a slippery ground. Do not be deceived by...
1. The novel starts with a quotation from a letter the future Catherine the Great wrote to the British Ambassador, Sir Hanbury-Williams: Three people who never leave her room, and who do not know about one another, inform me of what is going on, and will not fail to acquaint me when the crucial...
Praise for The Winter Palace
“At the same time baroque and intimate, worldly and domestic, wildly strange and soulfully familiar, The Winter Palace offers a flickering glimpse of history through the gauze of a deft entertainment.”
—The Washington Post
“[B]rilliant, bold . . . This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”
“Eva Stachniak's new novel should establish her as a pre-eminent writer of historical fiction. ... The Winter Palace is seamless in its depiction of a place and time…. what Stachniak has given us is not history, but a dramatic recreation of what the witnesses to history actually manage to see and do.”
—Quill & Quire
“Stachniak captures dramatic moments with flair, and the Russian Imperial court—with its fox-fur blankets, gilded furniture, and carafes of cherry vodka—appears in glorious splendor. This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”
“Stachniak sets the scene extravagantly with details of sumptuous meals, elaborate wardrobes, and cunning palace politics. Longtime readers of English and French historical novels will delight in this relatively unsung dynasty and the familiar hallmarks of courtly intrigue.”
“In The Winter Palace, Stachniak creates a story filled with political intrigue, secret affairs and dread diseases. . . . Stachniak has faithfully reproduced the historical story of Catherine.”
“Rich in detail, filled with vivid characters, recounted in seamless prose, The Winter Palace follows the suspenseful journey of two forceful young women--Varvara, the ‘tongue’ whose task it is to spy on a penniless young princess from Germany brought to court to provide a heir for Mother Russia, and Catherine, groomed to become the future wife of the next Czar, the socially clumsy and dull Peter. The Winter Palace is as luminescent as a Fabergé egg, as salty as caviar and as heady as vodka. Eva Stachniak has re-created an absolutely believable world of the Russian Imperial Court and the character of the young Catherine, the ambitious, ill-used, manipulated girl who became one of the greatest female monarchs the world has ever seen. This book will grab you by the throat on page one and not let you go until the last page. The characters will stay with you forever.”
—Roberta Rich, author of The Midwife of Venice
“The Winter Palace evokes the dark, glittering world of the Russian court. I loved my reader’s place behind the eyes of the servant girl Varvara, engaged in her perilous role as confidante to the young Catherine the Great. Rich with fascinating details of St. Petersburg, Eva Stachniak’s novel is an illuminating lesson and a delicious read.”
—Beth Powning, author of The Sea Captain’s Wife
“Spies and lovers lurk everywhere, while brilliantly bedecked royals indulge their every whim.”
“This novel is literary sable to sink into on a cold winter's night: luxurious and elegant, gilded with details, yet piercing in its depiction of the flamboyant decadence of the Russian court, and the tumultuous rise to power of Catherine the Great, as seen through the eyes of a scheming lady in waiting and spy. Once you enter the glorious, dangerous world of The Winter Palace, you will never want to leave.”
—C.W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
“A wonderful tale of the Imperial Russia court in all its glittering glory. Eva Stachniak vividly brings to life the early years of the meek young bride who would become the terrifying fascinating Catherine the Great.”
—Kate Williams, author of England’s Mistress and Becoming Queen
“Fantastic, bold, colourful, assured and wonderful writing - and what a story! An outstanding book, magical, beautiful with writing as crisp and fine and breathtaking as a Russian winter.”
—Manda Scott, author of the Boudica trilogy
“Covering the twenty years that turned Catherine the Great from a young bride on approval to the legendary Empress of Russia, Eva Stachniak’s novel gives a magical insight into the hopes and fears that haunted the corridors of the St. Petersburg palace. It brings alive the very tastes and textures of the mid-eighteenth century.”
—Sarah Gristwood, author of The Girl in the Mirror
“Awash in period details and as gripping and suspenseful as any thriller, The Winter Palace gives us a unique look at the making of a queen. Eva Stachniak allows us to peep through keyholes and overhear whispers as we navigate the intrigues of Imperialist Russia along with Sophie, the princess who became Catherine the Great. I loved this book, and this glimpse into a world of silk and shadows, grandeur and gossip.”
—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
“Eva Stachniak has given readers a thrilling glimpse into the scandals and secrets at the heart of the Russian Imperial court. With deft prose and exquisite detail, Stachniak has resurrected one of the most compelling ages in history. Turn off the phones and lock the doors—you will not put it down.”
—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author of Silent in the Grave
"Utterly enchanting from the first page. Eva Stachniak brings to life the sensual feast that was Catherine the Great's Russia in this beautifully written, tightly plotted novel."
—Tasha Alexander, author of And Only to Deceive
“This is a majestic and splendidly written tale of pride, passion, intrigue and deceit that is brought alive from the first page to the last.”
—Rosalind Laker, author of The Golden Tulip
“The Winter Palace is an intensely written, intensely felt saga of the early years that shaped the 18th century's famous czarina, Catherine the Great. Her survival in the treachery of the Russian court was an amazing feat, and Eva Stachniak captures the fluidity and steeliness that propelled Catherine from a lowly German duchess to one of the towering figures of the century.”
—Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly