Disclaimer: This review will not contain spoilers for The Girl in the Tower, but will contain spoilers for The Bear and the Nightingale
Huge thank you to Tess at Ebury/Penguin Random House for sending us proofs of The Girl in the Tower!
So I don’t on any level class myself as an expert on Russian mythology and folklore. However, I am a self confessed huge fan of it. Ever since stumbling upon my first Russian folklore inspired novel a few years ago, I’ve been desperately reaching for any and every book I can find that’s set in Russia, filled with domovoi and Slavic demons, and frankly, I love a good Firebird story. When I managed to get an e-ARC of The Bear and the Nightingale on NetGalley last year, I immediately fell in love with Katherine Arden’s writing and Vasya, her protagonist; I knew I’d do anything to have the sequel in my hands as soon as possible. I feel so privileged to have been able to get a proof of The Girl in the Tower, and before anything else I have to say that not only did it not disappoint, it far exceeded my expectations – and it’s probably one of those rare cases where I actually liked the sequel as much as, if not more than, the first book of the series.
From the cover:
For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic…
The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.
Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…
The Girl in the Tower follows Vasya’s story immediately where The Bear and the Nightingale left off, just after her father’s death. After the events in the first book with Morozko, Vasya’s village believes she is a witch who orchestrated her father’s death, and she sets off on an adventure with her horse Solovey, bringing her into the company of her older brother Sasha, and the Grand Prince of Moscow. Disguised as a boy and going by the name Vasilii Petrovich, Vasya is determined to prove her worth without revealing her secret. However, the gods, chyerti and demons who have followed her since childhood are never far behind, and when Vasya uncovers a threat to Moscow and to it’s Grand Prince, it becomes increasingly harder for her to hide her true self and avoid offending her brother and sister.
Vasya’s relationship with Morozko, the Frost King, grows throughout this book, despite her having left her small village and travelling to a part of Russia where the old ways are being denied, and therefore the old gods are waning. I was so glad to see that Morozko was still a key character in this book, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him in the third book in this trilogy, The Winter of the Witch (by the way – can we just quickly talk about how perfect that title is!?). It was also great to see Sasha again, a character who was really built up in the first book and then left for a convent in Moscow not too far in to it. A new character introduced is Marya, Vasya’s niece – much to Vasya’s sister Olga’s disappointment, Marya has essentially inherited all of Vasya’s headstrong ways, and like Vasya, she can see the aspects and inhabitants of the old world that are fading now that the church is becoming more prominent throughout Russia. Obviously, Vasya and Marya bond immediately and make the ultimate badass feminist pair. Without giving anything away, I also have to say that my all time favourite figure from Russian mythology appears in this book (yeah, I do have a favourite figure from Russian mythology…) and after what to me seemed like a long build up to this from the first book, I was so happy that they were finally introduced. I’ll let you all think of that what you like, but all I’ll say is, if you know a bit about Russian folklore I’m sure you’ll be making the connections, and either way, you’ll understand when you read this book!
I was so glad to see Katherine Arden’s clear development from TBATN – to write a debut novel as fantastic as it was is certainly an achievement, and to write a sequel that lives up to and possibly even surpasses that debut is even more admirable.
If you couldn’t tell already from my gushing review, I absolutely adored this book, and I think I’ll be talking about Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy for a long time. Now, to wait for the final book…
The Girl in the Tower is released in the US on the 5th December 2017 and in the UK on the 25th January 2018!
love Becky @