Peter the Great was as varied as the immense lands he ruled, and very little of the man is missed in this present biography. It also captures to an unusual degree the social structure, religious hierarchy and economic plight of 17th century Russia. Peter, a violent figure, killed with his own hands anyone who displeased him. He caroused furiously, yet was intensely devoted to the Church. A brilliant leader in the wars he waged, he was also an adept shipbuilder, armorer, gunner, engineer, drummer, cabinet maker, dentist. He founded the huge port and capitol of St. Petersburg, and with the same vision and energy shaved the beards of the Muscovian nobility, modernized the dress of the times, and revamped the laws of government and marriage. He also brought science and scientific thinking to Russia. Nothing is more curious or extraordinary about the Tsar than his union with Catherine I, who rose from oblivion to mistress, wife and successor of the Tsar. Even her infidelities were concealed and forgiven... The narrative is vivid, compact and compelling - and this is a sound introduction to a subject who has not too great an appeal for a present-day audience.