Now – before I get into this review, which I am SO EXCITED to do – this is the second book in a series, so this review may have some spoilers for the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale.
“Think of me sometimes… When the snowdrops have bloomed and the snow has melted.”
Synopsis from Goodreads: “The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.”
Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.”
If you loved the first book in The Winternight Trilogy: The Bear in the Nightingale, you will love it’s sequel. This book, actually this series, is some of the best historical fiction I have ever read. The combination of the history and folklore of Russia is absolute perfection. And the way that Katherine Arden flawlessly combines history, folklore and the fantastical makes this novel a magical and compelling read. If you ignored my previous warning of spoilers, and you haven’t started these books, I need you to stop what you’re doing right now and go read them. Okay? Go. Now.
Before I go into my more detailed review – this book shouldn’t be read as a stand alone. You should definitely start with The Bear and the Nightingale (it’s worth it). Arden doesn’t start the book with a lot of refresher information, she jumps right into the action and that is one of the things I love most about it. There were definitely details that related back to the first book, but I never felt like we were rehashing plot points that had already been discussed and wrapped up. It was like I had just turned the page of the first book into the second and it really helped the pace of the book (which was excellent throughout).
This book was also fantastically feminist. Vasilisa (Vasya) is a fiercely independent woman who has no desire to comply to 14th century Russian culture and rules. She risks her life, and her family’s lives, in order to try and find herself and her purpose, without being forced to spend her life locked away as some man’s wife or in a nunnery. She fights for what she believes is right, without fail, no matter what the consequences might be. She is smart. She listens to her heart. And above all, she knows that being a woman does not make her any less of a person than if she was a man. She is a woman who I ardently admire.
“Do you think that is all I want, in all my life—a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me?”
Side note: Hi my name is Hannah and I am hopelessly in love with a frost demon named Morozko.
The relationship between Morozko and Vasya was an absolute treat to read. Morozko’s desire to keep Vasya safe, and Vasya’s refusal to be treated as anything less than she is, is a combination that I am 100% here for. And while Morozko does try and protect her at all costs, with spring coming fast, the Winter King can only do so much. As Morosko and Vasya struggle with their feelings for one another their relationship goes to new depths that will make you fall in love and Katherine Arden doesn’t hold back any punches either.
“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you… But my life is not your game.”
This book is atmospheric, magical, beautiful and heartbreaking. I am always nervous when moving on to the second book in a series when I loved the first book so much because I am nervous of the second book not living up to my expectations. This book lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It was a page turner and there were many times that I had a hard time setting it down. Arden’s characters have been added to my short list of characters that I would absolutely die for. The last book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, set to be released in August 2018 is one of my most anticipated of 2018. I can not wait to see where Arden has Vasya going next in her journey. I have very high hopes.