Historical Fiction: Kremlins Series

Did you know...that Ivan the Terrible was both ingenious and insane?

Ivan technically became Grand Prince of Russia at the ripe old age of three, after his father died. Of course, he was too young to rule then. His mother, Elena, became regent, completely neglecting little Ivan in favor of trying to hold onto political power. When Ivan was eight, Elena died, most likely poisoned by a rival.

Ivan had the first rival to his own power killed when he was thirteen. He also committed his first rape at that age and by then was regularly torturing and killing small animals. 

The thing is, while Ivan was certifiably insane--matching, if not out-doing Vlad the Impaler in terms of nasty ways to kill people, and number of deaths of his own people--he was also a pretty good leader. 

He curtailed the abuses of the nobility, becoming known as a champion of the lower classes, so many of them revered him. Imperialistically, he took Russia from the small, medieval state it was under his father to a billion acre-empire. He was called gronzy, which being interpreted means Terrible, but the word didn't have the same connotation in his time as it does in ours. Back then it meant great, awe-inspiring, or perhaps formidable.

Of course, he also laid siege to one of his biggest cities, Novgorod, for a month, torturing and killing so many of its citizens that the blood in the streets was ankle deep. 

He had them impaled, beheaded, dismembered alive, deep fried, or torn limb from limb. He carried a staff with a sharp end that he was known to spear people with when they displeased him. 

When he became angry with his oldest son, he hit him in the head with an iron bar, killing him instantly. (Picture at right.)

And yet, he's considered by the Russian people to be one of the greatest rulers in their history. He crowned himself Tsar at age seventeen, and was the first ruler to take that title (Tsar is the Russian word for Caesar). To this day, many revere him, despite the violence and devastation he visited on his own people. 

The dichotomy of Ivan's personality is one of the most grandiose and fascinating we have record of. I suppose it goes to show that there can be a fine line between genius and madness. 

My book, Citadels of Fire, is a historical fiction novel set against the backdrop of the reign of Ivan the Terrible. 

In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. 

Even as a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers. 

Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

Find Citadels of Fire at the following links:

Inga has finally found the courage to engage in a relationship with Taras, the only man she’s ever loved, but the winter winds blow cold in Russia, and happiness is short-lived. 

On the heels of a triumphant victory, Tsar Ivan falls ill, followed by his beloved wife. The Tsarina's condition worsens, and Inga sees glimpses of the sadistic creature Ivan was before he married. As Ivan’s madness grows, he lashes out, and all of Russia feels the sting.

As Inga fears the future, Taras looks to the past, searching for the elusive answers to his mother’s death. As mystery piles upon mystery, and everyone refuses to talk, Taras begins to wonder if he’ll ever truly understand the event that has plagued him since childhood. 

The Kremlin darkens and the countryside fills with blood. Inga and Taras cling to one another for survival. If no one reins Ivan in, they may end up losing more than their lives.

Find Bastions of Blood at the following links:

What do you think of Ivan's apparently contradictory aspects? Why do you think this has this happened so often historically?

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