ARC Review // The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

“You shouldn’t have told them I was a girl. Then they might have believed that I was dangerous.”

One girl can make a difference…

Moscow has burned nearly to the ground, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to hold accountable. Vasya finds herself on her own, amid a rabid mob that calls for her death, blaming her witchery for their misfortune.

Then a vengeful demon returns, renewed and stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos in his wake and never be chained again. Enlisting the hateful priest Konstantin as his servant, turmoil plagues the Muscovites and the magical creatures alike, and all find their fates resting on the shoulders of Vasya.

With an uncertain destiny ahead of her, Vasya learns surprising truths of her past as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all…

I’ve loved Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy since the beginning, and I’m so glad that I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early proof of it! Thank you Ebury/Penguin Random for sending it my way.

The Winter of the Witch certainly managed to surpass my expectations. Questions are answered from both the first and second books, more mythology is entwined with history, and Vasya comes into her powers even more.

After her trials in Moscow in The Girl in the Tower, Vasya finds herself journeying across worlds in order to save Rus from the approaching Mongol army. The book begins right where the last book kicked off, so I’d recommend refreshing yourself with what was going on before picking this up!
The young, headstrong girl from The Bear and the Nightingale and the reckless teenager from The Girl in the Tower has fully come into her own in The Winter of the Witch. Vasya has embraced her other worldliness, and uses her connection to the old gods of Rus to form an unlikely alliance that could be her only hope of saving her people. She learns more about her own history, where her magic comes from, and pushes through her boundaries.

“I am a witch. I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy. I have crossed three times nine realms to find you, my lord. And I find you at play, forgetful.”

Throughout this trilogy, Katherine Arden has been a master of weaving mythology and history together, and the continuation of this really was what made The Winter of the Witch the best possible ending for the series. As we reach the battle of Kulikovo, more characters from Slavic folklore are introduced, and although the ending neatly wrapped up the conflicts and issues that grew throughout the books, it is still left open enough for there to be more questions asked.

Vasya was never written as a trope-filled heroine; her character defies all odds and expectations, being a woman in a historical setting where women were not supposed to step outside the box, and to behave differently to the expectations that men placed on them meant condemnation. Still, she goes against this and fights for both of her people – the Muscovites and the chyerti – despite both having cast her out throughout her life.

The Winter of the Witch is a story of old magic and new religions, unity and loneliness, ambition and duty. It creates a magical backstory to the battle that some believe was the beginning of the nation of Russia, as Arden says in her author’s note.

This trilogy has been one of my firm favourites since I picked up The Bear and the Nightingale, and I can’t wait to see what Katherine Arden brings out next.

lots of love,

Becky

newlogolg copy

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