When Katerina Alexandrovna discovers that the Tsar himself has decided she must postpone going to medical school in Austria and instead return to Smolny Institute, a finishing school in St. Petersburg and the site of the first book in this series, I was just as disappointed as she was. It felt like a step backward to both of us. Being a necromancer with the ability to raise the dead gives Katerina dark powers she wishes she didn’t have, but she was able to use her powers to save the life of the Tsar in The Gathering Storm, and now he wants to keep her close and safe. It turns out though, that being stuck back at Smolny is anything but safe and boring. There’s a ghost having violent tantrums in the library, a powerful fae cook with uncertain loyalties, and an undead army in charge of guarding the school. Set during 1889 when the future Nicholas II, the final Tsar of Russia, was the teenage heir to the throne, the imperial family is here divided into paranormal light and dark courts, with historical figures making up some of the fairies, wizards, werewolves and vampires. Nicholas II’s future bride, Alexandra or Alix, is one of Katerina’s roommates. Both of the love interests from the last book, the enigmatic George Alexandrovich, middle son of the current tsar, and the untrustworthy vampire Prince Danilo of Montenegro, manage to complicate Katerina’s life in spite of the walls that separate them from her. Katerina herself is still learning to control her powers and making mistakes with sometimes long term consequences. I read The Unfailing Light with just as much fervor as The Gathering Storm, and as with that earlier book I only paused willingly to look up more information on the fascinating historical characters and incidents that are skillfully incorporated into the plot. There’s an interactive family tree on author Robin Bridge’s website that I highly recommend for helping to keep the historical figures straight.