Ellen Alpsten – Tsarina

Title: Tsarina
Author: Ellen Alpsten

Spring 1699: illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of 15, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia’s young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.

Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril. How long will she survive the machinations of Peter’s court, and more importantly, Peter himself? 

The current Amazon title of this book is not Tsarina but Tsarina: ‘Makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ – Daisy Goodwin. Apart from being cringy, it also reminded me that A Song of Ice and Fire did many things but it has at least never had graphic on-page descriptions of POV characters getting raped. The books at least. The show had no such qualms. And neither has Tsarina. Marta/Catherine gets raped multiple times. She also witnesses rapes and eventually orders the rape of another character (and watches). In case you hadn’t guessed: this book is Dark And Gritty. But there’s not only rape, there’s also sex…Katharina has sex and watches other people have sex. Occasionally the sex is fairly plain and vanilla but more often it’s something like…orgies involving lesbian incest sex because this book is Dark And Edgy. In between, there are some wars that are described with as much loving detail as only an author who absolutely does not care about this kind of stuff and wants to go back to writing edgy sex could. Which would be slightly excusable if the sex scenes didn’t look like this:

Peter whooped and grabbed the man’s hips, spurring him on. “Devier, you rascal. Do I have to teach you everything? Don’t they even know how to fuck in your country? Rhythm, man!” Rasia Menshikova covered her face in shame when Peter fondled her tiny breasts, pushing them to the right and then left. “Starboard! Larboard! All hands on deck,” he shouted.

At least there’s also lovingly described torture and execution (because this book is Dark And Edgy) that give a break from sex scenes involving naval terminology.

What else?

  • Obergshathalter is not a German word
  • матка/matka is a Russian word but not the one the author thinks it is
  • Catherine magically gains the ability to read so she can burn a letter from Peter in a fittingly theatralic manner (so that the right words burn first) and then forgets it again
  • I am aware that Russian-Orthodox people cross themselves with three fingers, some people might not but they will probably catch it after…idk the third time it’s brought up. There’s no need to mention the three fingers every time someone crosses themself (yes…this was genuinely mentioned so many times that I got as annoyed by it as by the bad sex scenes)

I could go on but it would just be several more points followed by (because this book is Dark And Gritty you see) and I have better things to do.

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