This year has started very strong. I already added two books to my Favourites 2018 shelf on GoodReads and hope that more and more books will continue to surprise me!
The first installment – «The Bear and the Nightingale» with gorgeous cover (both US and UK editions) was hands down one of the best books I read in 2017. I’ll even dare to say that it might be one of the best books I’ve ever read! So if you have not heard about it, or haven’t picked it up yet (for whatever reason) check my review here to find out all the good things about Katherine Arden’s writing.
«The Girl in the Tower» was an even better continuation to Vasya’s adventures. It felt much more fast paced than the first book and Katherine Arden’s lyrical writing did not stop to amaze me page after page.
There were so many passages that I wanted to highlight just for the sake of beautiful descriptions, like this one:
Moscow, just past midwinter, and the haze of thousand fires rose to meet a smothering sky. To the west a little light lingered, but in the east the clouds mounded up, bruise-colored in the livid dusk, buckling with unfallen snow.
Two rivers gashed the skin of the Russian forest, and Moscow lay at their joining, atop a pine-clad hill.
Instantly, I could picture the fires and the hill, the whole paisaje, vivid before my eyes. That and retellings of Russian folklore that I grew up listening to, made it an unbelievable experience.
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.
In the previous book we saw Vasya grow up and struggle against the customs and beliefs of her family, against the way of living. Where have you seen a maiden to not behave like one? Who didn’t want to get married, who just wanted to be free. Unfortunately, that was not an option, not in the medieval Rus’.
«”Because I do not wish to marry,” Vasya finished. The words sounded strange even as she said them. A woman married. Or she became a nun. Or she died. That was what being a woman meant. What, then, was she?»
As Vasya is forced to live her home and family behind, her free spirit finally gets the outburst it so deeply desires. She can be anyone she wants, she can go anywhere, there is only her and a vast mysterious world, with Solovey always by her side.
Speaking of Solovey – Vasya’s horse, I loved the playful dynamic between them. Jokes back and forth. The uncontained love and care. Solovey was not a regular horse, he became one of the characters, and the one I cared deeply about.
In the very beginning of the book, Olga – Vasya’s sister, tells the story of Snegurochka, the snow-maiden. The fairy tale every child hears from the very young age. «’You are made of snow’, Morozko the frost-demon warned her, when she met him in the forest. ‘You cannot love and be immortal’». This tale, as we understand later on, is a preset to some events that take place later in the book, very heart-breaking events I must add!
Besides the carefully described family relations, intricate love interactions and never-ending well of emotions, we got to see much more of history side as well, especially Mongols and their dominion over Rus’ and political games that were part of their fragile relationship. Described so vividly and interesting that I went right into googling more historic facts.
I will always stay on look out for more books by Katherine Arden and especially for the third installment in this series! Vasya has become so dear to me that I am not sure how long I will be able to wait until re-reading this trilogy!
Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for the ARC of this book!