Publication date: May 27, 2014 by Jolly Fish Press
Source: publisher for an honest review
In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. Even as a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers. Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.
I love Russian history and novels that take place in Russia, so naturally, the description of Citadels of Fire appealed to me. The novel manages to give a fascinating look at the politics, customs and superstitions, class distinctions and historical events all while holding the reader's interest in a story mostly about Inga, Yehvah, and Taras.
Yehvah is the woman who saves Inga and gives her a stable parent figure and a position in the Kremlin as a maid. Taras spent time in Russia as a child before his mother's death and returns as an adult to find out the truth about her death. He ends up in the Tsar's army and is a central figure to the story.
It is Inga, however, who held my interest the most. She is an underdog in a world of powerful people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Her situation is precarious since the boyars view any servant as basically property to be treated however they wish. This becomes an even bigger issue as Inga grows into a smart and beautiful young woman.
I found the novel to be interesting and quite a page-turner. I was particularly impressed with how the author was able to weave the politics of the time into the story. Because the novel includes Ivan's childhood and the traumas and upheaval he experienced, it is a little easier to empathize with his extreme moods and it at least helps to explain a bit some of his actions.
The author includes wonderful descriptions of the landscape and weather and wildlife - all of which could be very dangerous to humans. I thought the tone of how tough and precarious life in Russia could be was right and I enjoyed the book very much. I was a bit upset at the ending when I realized that I would have to wait to find out the rest of Inga and Tara's story.
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