Ellen Alpsten

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book | Fiction | May 2020
US & Canada → St Martin's Press Inc (Ed. Charlie Spicer)
UK & Comm → Bloomsbury Publishing (Ed. Faiza Khan)

Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia's young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.

Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter's court, and more importantly, Peter himself?


Audio Rights


Liz Dennis manages the translation rights for Tsarina

Film Rights


Contact Luke Speed for more information

Translation Rights Sold

Wilhelm Heyne Verlag
Tericum Kiado
De Agostini Editions
Matica Makedonska Publishing House
Wydawnictwo Marginesy
Editora Planeta
Grup Media Litera
Vulkan Publishing
Ediciones Grijalbo

A richly woven tapestry of royal intrigue, ruthless ambition, deadly desires, love and war, Ellen Alpsten’s Tsarina is an evocative and enthralling historical novel that brings 17th Century Russia to vivid and glorious life.

Bookish Jottings

Alpsten’s colourful narrative does full justice to [Catherine I's] extraordinary career.

Nick Rennison
The Sunday Times

...a vivid page-turner of a debut.

The Times

Tsarina evocatively explores how far one woman would go to stay alive, even if it means serving a man with unbridled power and then picking up that mantle herself.

Shelf Awareness

The story is brilliantly descriptive and leaves nothing to the imagination, be it the lives of the peasants from whom Catherine came; the social lives of both rich and poor; the sexual mores of the time; and the sheer cruelty of the Emperor.

Historical Novel Society

A vicious, bloody, sexy romp. This is fearless historical fiction with a sharp contemporary frisson which offers a thought-provoking vision of the brutal, knife-edge lot of women at the time.

Women's Weekly Australia

Fast-paced, brimming with atmosphere, menace, intrigue and brutality, this is destined to be one 2020’s most exciting and sumptuous historical novels. Tsarina is epic in every sense of the word and puts Alpsten firmly on the reading map.

Lancashire Post

Tsarina should come with a health warning- once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop.

Hannah Rothschild, author of The Improbability of Love

Intrigue, rivalry, and sumptuous decadence leap to vivid life in this fascinating story of Peter the Great’s second wife—a woman whose passionate resolve to survive carries her all the way into the bed of the Tsar and a lethal gambit to seize the throne. Conjuring the gorgeous marble of the Winter Palace and deprivation of Russia in the 18th century, the perilous ascent to power of the first woman to rule as empress is a gripping and unforgettable journey.

C.W. Gortner, author of The Romanov Princess

Luscious: Alpsten has clearly done some brilliant research. It reads like Game of Thrones without the dragons.

Natasha Pulley, the Betty Trask Prize winning author of Filigree Street

The extraordinary life and career of Catherine I of Russia is brought to life in Alpsten’s colourful novel.

Sunday Times Summer Reading Roundup

What begins in a picturesque manner veers powerfully, displaying magnificent sequences at court, intrigues of the first order, jealousies between ladies, bloody battles, blending it all in an epic cloaked in ice and snow that will not fail to conquer countless readers.

La Stampa

Alpsten shines...Lovers of Russian history, strong women protagonists, and sweeping historicals will savor this vivid portrait.

Publishers Weekly

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

What an astonishing bodice ripping borscht of a book. 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, bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter

What a gripping read! In Tsarina, Ellen Alpsten brings to life the incredible story of Catherine I, arguably the most compelling Cinderella saga in history, in all of its gorgeous, glorious complexity. Love, sex, and loyalty vie with war, intrigue, and treason to create an epic canvas as exotic and powerful as eighteenth-century Russia itself. Masterfully researched and beautifully written, this is historical fiction at its best.

Nancy Goldstone, author of Daughters of the Winter Queen and Rival Queens

Ellen Apsten’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. As Catherine’s career was as melodramatic as that of any heroine of romance, this proves a highly effective approach

Count Nikolai Tolstoy, Historian & Writer

With its sprawling canvas and huge cast, it rivals a Russian winter in length, but it’s an entertaining romp through the endless intrigue, violence and debauchery of court life.

The Mail on Sunday

Hugely enjoyable – a fast-paced, full-on, moreish reimagining of the life of Catherine I.

Living Magazines

A fascinating and extraordinary ride from slavery to royalty...[for] fans of historical fiction, Russia, political intrigue, and powerful women.

Booklist, *Starred Review

The narrative moves at an engaging pace and the reader feels invested in the protagonist... People who enjoy a good Cinderella story of rags-to-riches and romance with a dash of Game of Thrones should enjoy this book.

Jessica Incoll
Glam Adeleide

This is without a doubt a gripping saga which outlines a woman of extraordinary intelligence ... It is a hefty tome of more than five hundred pages but I devoured it in less than a week. This is story-telling at its finest. 

Linda Duberley
River Tribe