Russia is divided and trouble is brewing. Revolution is bubbling angrily beneath the surface. The poor are starving and desperate, yet in the Imperial court of Tsar Nicolas II the aristocracy live a life of senseless decadence and wanton excess. Two mysterious sisters burst into the Romanov Court. Princesses Anastasia and Militza arrive from the tiny impoverished backwater of Montenegro and, thanks to their socially aspirational father the ‘Goat King’, are married off to wealthy Russian aristocrats. The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones is ideal beach reading: gripping, entertaining and gossipy.
Famed for their unusual beauty and mysterious spiritual powers yet shunned by the shallow and snobbish St. Petersburg nobility, the sisters soon befriend the lonely and deeply unpopular Tsarina Alexandra. They gradually draw her into their world of magic and spirituality, using their psychic skills to help her in her increasingly frantic quest to produce a son and heir.
In a fatal move that was to change the course of Russian history, the sisters introduce the infamous spiritual shaman Grigori Rasputin to the court. Edwards-Jones weaves a gripping tale of how the friendless and desperate Tsarina seals her fate under the spell of the darkly charismatic Rasputin.
Clearly meticulously researched, The Witches of St. Petersburg explores this previously undocumented yet game-changing part of the Romanov story. Imogen Edwards-Jones transports the reader into a world of black magic, the occult, intrigue, sex, scandal and debauchery. The descriptions of Rasputin are particularly vivid and his despicable yet compelling personality is wonderfully drawn. The author is clearly passionate about Russian history and the book left me yearning to find out more about “The Black Peril’, as the two sisters became known.
The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones is published by Head of Zeus, 416 pages.