Book: The Girl in The Tower (Winternight Trilogy)
Author: Katherine Arden
Publishing Date: 25th Jan 2018
No. of Pages: 363
Goodreads Summary: 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 live 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.
My Review: I haven’t read The Bear and The Nightingale ( Part I of Winternight Trilogy) so I read this book as a standalone novel and there is only one word which describes it, “extraordinary“.
The novel is set in fourteenth-century Russia where high born girls aren’t allowed outside their houses and demons, witches are true things. Vasya is a strong head, brave, a mature yet immature girl who cannot stand societal bounds. She knows her head and heart very well and she tends to follow it. She is innocent but she knows and understands worldly dangers.
She is smart enough to disguise herself as a boy to protect herself from dangers of the road but foolish enough to stay in Moscow and let her brother Sasha and Olga suffer the consequences of her lies. She is emotional enough to understand frost- demon Morotza’s feelings towards her and unthoughtful and cold-hearted to fall prey to nasty words of Kaschei-the Deathless.
Her chivalrous romance with the frost demon Morotza is breathtaking. Although she loves him in the way a child loves his superheroes but yet it seems much more than that. Morotza understands the impossibility of their togetherness as one is mortal and other is immortal, one is a god of death and other is soulful human, yet they complete each other in their own ways.
Even though the relationship between Olga, Sasha, and Vasya is not that typical loving brother-sister relationship yet it is a beautiful one. Their love which was somewhere lost among worldly ties is surely rekindled with Vasya’s efforts and selfless love. But, the Sasha keeps on asking Vasya if she is a witch? throughout the novel, actually made me angry. What kind of a brother is he?
There are a lot of references from Russian folklore but it is okay if you are not familiar with it as the author has described her characters very well. But, you will enjoy it more if you already know the folklore.
The emotional stance of the book is what makes the reading worthwhile. From romance between frost demon and Vasya and the crossed relationships between siblings and the bond between Vasya and Olga’s daughter Masha; the author has described the emotions in a practical manner. The heartbreaking scene where Vasya begs to Morotza was Olga’s life brought tears to my eyes,
“They used to beg, when I walked among men, Morozko had told her once. If they saw me, they would beg. Evil came of that; better I step softly, better only the dead and the dying can see me…He loved Vasya’s mother, the people had said of her father. He loved that Marina Ivanovna. She died bringing Vasilisa forth, and Pyotr Vladimirovich put half his soul in the earth when they buried her. Her sister wailed a thin and bone-chilling cry. “Blood,” Vasya heard, from the crowd beside. “Blood— too much blood. Get the priest.”“Please!” Vasya cried to Morozko. “Please!”
The Girl in the Tower is a proper example of perfect story-telling. The author has beautifully weaved the Russian folklore and her imagination together. She has described background setups of every scene without digressing from the plot line and boring the readers. It is a fast-paced story with no going back to history sessions. The author has been successfully able to capture both beauty and brutality of that world, at the same time.
It is a must read if you are a fan of historical fiction or looking something thrilling, real yet fantasy at the same time.
PS: Find a cozy corner before you start reading it. Winter has come and it is magical but harsh!
“Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.”
“There is no such thing as magic.Things are or they are not.”
About the Author:
Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently, she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.
Guest review contributed by Crafty Reader. Crafty Reader is book blogger who posts book reviews and shares her experiences with books and everything bookish. She is a bookaholic.