Hey readers! Ethan here with a post that's sure to entertain. It's a bit of a bittersweet one for me as I say goodbye to a series that has truly changed my bookish life. What are we raving about today? Queen of Always, the final book in the widely-acclaimed Stolen Empire series by the incredible Sherry D. Ficklin. Before we get to my thoughts, here's a bit about the novel and our author:
If her time at court has taught Catherine anything, it’s that there is no room for weakness in Imperial Russia. With the Empress’ health failing and rumors of a change in the line of succession, her place in the royal line is once more in jeopardy. Tormented by her sadistic husband and his venomous mistress, Catherine must once more walk the fine line between pleasure and politics—between scandal and survival.
When her young son becomes the target of those rebelling against Peter’s reign, Catherine will have to rise up to protect herself, her child, and her nation from his unstable and potentially catastrophic rule. This means putting herself at odds with the most dangerous man she’s ever known, trusting those who once proved to be her enemies, and turning a nation against its sovereign. In the ultimate battle for the crown, new alliances will be forged, loyalties will be tested, and blood will be shed.
Don’t miss this breathtaking conclusion to the Stolen Empire series!
Queen of Tomorrow is a YA historical fiction based on the life of young Catherine the Great. Fans of the hit TV show REIGN will devour this scandalous glimpse into the life of one of the most dynamic women in history.
Sherry D. Ficklin
Sherry D. Ficklin is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
Find Sherry F. Ficklin
Saying goodbye to Catherine and the gang has proved to be harder for me than any other review I have written. Over the course of three novels now, I have bonded so intimately with this series and these characters. Being a historian myself, I love a great historical read. Unfortunately there really aren't all that many of them out there. History is amazing in itself, but in most cases, it doesn't make for the best of stories without tweaking it within another genre (paranormal, historic fantasy, etc).
While Always, along with the other two novels in the series, closely follows the story of young Catherine the Great of Russia, Ficklin was able to take a few liberties with the written history in order to tweak it to make this series really stand out above the crowd. Catherine the Great is one of the most intriguing figures in all of written history: strong, independent, intelligent, and more. Her life is also clouded in mystery as historians have flocked to examine every facet of this remarkable leader's life over the years. With such mystery has become legends surrounding Catherine's personal life, her children, and her eventual death. While the public may never know the full truth of Catherine the Great, Ficklin has done an incredible job making her a more realistic figure for audiences of all ages, earning her major kudos in my book.
Set in eighteenth century Russia, Ficklin pulls out all the stops. From Oranienbaum to Catherine's Palace, to Cathedrals. to the vast forests of Russia, each setting is beautifully crafted with just the right amount of description to set the tone of the novel. I was very clearly able to close my eyes and imagine myself in the palace of the Empress Elizabeth, right alongside Sophie and the gang. Everything from Russian architecture to food was described in such a fantastic way as to leave the reader more than impressed.
I can honestly say that I am in absolute awe of Sherry Ficklin. Never before in my bookish history have I seen an author go to such lengths for a story. The research Ficklin has done on every facet of Russian history and culture is sure to please even the harshest of critics. It is noted in the novel multiple times that this is a historic fiction and that Ficklin has taken some liberties in interpreting the tale. In all honesty, I believe that Ficklin's tale is probably closer to the truth than the history books have led us to believe, plus they give these historical figures a story for an entirely new generation of learners. Save a spot on your bookshelf of favorite, Ficklin has more than earned that empty space!
Much like the first two novels in the series, Ficklin hits the ground running with Queen of Always and the action does not end until the final pages. I couldn't put it down, seriously. I've read Queen of Always twice now trying to formulate my thoughts and I've realized that no words I can write will ever truly do this series justice. In Always, Sophie-now-Catherine is well on her way to becoming the monarch history will remember. She's amassed a following, and now has plotted to overthrow more than one regime. What started out as hopes to secure a peaceful life for her family has turned into so much more. No longer the timid, hesitant girl she started, Catherine is a woman on a mission. Her heart still full of longing and confliction, will Catherine be able to put aside her heart's desires to serve her Mother Russia?
As anyone who has read the first two novels will tell you, Ficklin really pushes the envelope with this series. Life in the Imperial Russian court is not for the faint of heart. Crippled with violence, death, abuse, oppression, and heartbreak, Ficklin has created a true-to-life tone that will leave you shaking with anger and tears flowing with sadness at the truth and raw honesty of the situations. One thing I was actually glad to see was the extremely progression of tone in this installment, almost pushing it into the 'new adult' genre. There are a few scenes of extreme violence that made me wince and a few extremely steamy scenes (including one that may have become my favorite 'adult content' scene of all time if only because of the pure shock factor).
While I won't spoil the ending (though Wikipedia will), I will tell you that I was left absolutely speechless, Ficklin hit me with every feel imaginable, and then some more!
Being the series finale, Ficklin didn't really introduce a plethora of new characters into the mix, but the few that were introduced played extremely into the final act. This final story was a reunion of sorts as we see the return of some of the series' most important characters in some of the saddest and most creative ways possible. Seeing as character specifics play a huge role in the 'shock and awe' factor of the story, I'm going to refrain from saying too much, but rest assured that each cast member of this series gets their dues. By the novels end, most every characters story is accounted for, wrapping up the series in the most perfect of ways for the fans.
As you can clearly see, I haven't the first negative thing to say about Queen of Always, it was everything I was wanting from a series finale, and more! Our journey was completely wrapped up within the chapters, then a gripping and emotionally powerful epilogue really ended the trilogy on a touching note. This novel was literary perfection at its' finest. Remarkably entertaining and powerful, Queen of Always is Ficklin's most spectacular achievement to-date!
This all being said, it should come as absolutely no surprise that I am granting Queen of Always by Sherry D. Ficklin a near-perfect 5+-star review. I highly recommend this series to all readers of YA, historical, and romance novels. Please be advised that due to violence and extreme adult situations, this read has been rated at the highest disclosure level Clean Teen Publishing has offered to-date. I would recommend this read to all mature-YA readers and up. I can assure you it's nothing like anything you've ever read before. Don't miss this opportunity to add this incredible novel to your TBR today!
Check out my reviews of the other two
novels in the Stolen Empire series by
clicking the covers below!
Alright readers, that's all I have for you on the topic of Queen of Always by Sherry D. Ficklin. As evident by multiple posts full of raving, this is by-far one of my all-time favorite YA Historic series. I cannot say enough incredible things about it. As saddened as I am by the impending finale, I am blessed to have taken this journey throughout history with Sherry Ficklin. She is truly a literary treasure.
Don't be too upset to say goodbye, Ficklin just announced publicly today that this isn't the end of this literary world. Ficklin has plans for more books set in Tsarist Russia, beginning with The Other Elizabeth (Release TBD) featuring the life of Empress Elizabeth. I cannot wait to see what Ficklin brings to the table with this prequel series.
Be sure to add all three novels in this incredible series to your TBR and don't miss this chance to celebrate the impending release with Ficklin. Special thanks to the team at Clean Teen Publishing for supplying me with an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Until next time, Happy Reading!