Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands. Upon graduating from the l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador. Tsarina is her debut novel.
TSARINA will be published by Bloomsbury on the 14th of May.
Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten’s rich, sweeping first-person narrative is the story of her rise to power.
St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent WinterPalace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself. Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive on a stake in Red Square. And nowCatherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself? From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.
This is the ultimate Cinderella story of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes the empress of Russia. It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ Daisy Goodwin
‘Tsarina should come with a health warning-once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop’Hannah Rothschild, author of The Improbability of Love
‘Ellen Alpsten’s Tsarina brings to life the dramatic life of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, and afterwards Empress of Russia in her own right. She recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times in the form of a novel, drawing however throughout on documentary evidence – this proves a highly effective approach’Nikolai Tolstoy
‘Tsarina is luscious. As detailed as the jewels and enamel inlay on the creations of Faberge, Ellen Alpsten writes the story of Catherine Alexeyevna, born poor with a lust for power and riches, who sets her mind to achieve both, and sets in motion all that will follow in Russian history, including the reign of Catherine the Great. You will marvel at this crisp, elegant fictional account of history, woven with emotion and brio’Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife
‘Luscious: Alpsten has clearly done some brilliant research. It reads like Game of Thrones without the dragons’Natasha Pulley, author The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.