The Girl in the Tower

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Vasya is that wild thing, untamed, unashamed, brave and bold, that lives inside all of us. In a time when women were expected to stay at home and be a good wife or join a convent, Vasya refused. Knowing her spirit would never allow her to stay hemmed in by four walls, she went her own way, secreting herself as a boy and riding around the countryside, exploring the world as a traveler, living in the wild, all from the back of her magical horse and companion, Solovey.  When circumstances bring her to Moscow, to the company of no less than the Grand Prince of Moscow himself, her spirit remains undaunted, allowing for daring feats and challenges, that could ruin her if she is found to be a woman instead of the boy she masquerades as.  

I loved everything about this book. Its majesty, the atmosphere, the descriptions that drop you directly into the pages and the place. The characters themselves, most especially Vasya herself. She retains her wild nature, and almost seems to embody the spirit of Russia itself. This is a more mature Vasya, yet one still  in tune with natural world and all its otherworldly beings - including Morozko. And let's not forget Solovey, who has such a huge personality. I simply adored him!

 I didn't think it possible, but I loved this book even more than its predecessor, and I can't wait for the next book, The Witch!
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The Bear and the Nightingale was one of my favorite books of 2017, and just shy of one year later author Katherine Arden has produced a sequel — greatly pleasing those of us who are weary of waiting years for a follow-up book. And I’m glad to say that The Girl in the Tower is a worthy successor, showing no signs of a sophomore slump. A third book is already slated for August of 2018, which should bring the trilogy to a rousing conclusion.

Girl is a tauter and leaner book than Bear, with a more streamlined plot and fewer POV switches, but still with the atmospheric Russian setting steeped in both history and folklore that so enchanted me in the first book. What was built up over many chapters is now taken for granted in this second volume, with few new elements added, but characters and themes are extended and deepened. New readers will definitely want to start with book one, and not jump into the middle of the story, as they would thus miss half the pleasure of entering into Arden’s half-realistic, half-mythological world. (And you might want to go get that book right now before reading the rest of this review, to avoid spoilers. If you like that one, I’m sure you’ll want to continue straight on to the next.)

On the run from her remote village, where she’s been branded as a witch by a malicious priest, Vasya encounters her long-lost brother Sasha and sister Olya and enters into a perilous deception that brings her into a treacherous world of shifting alliances. As she journeys to Moscow, powerful but vulnerable heart of her people’s land, she must try to reconcile the old powers that still speak to her with the demands and prejudices of this bewildering new world. An explosive climax brings secrets to light and sets the stage for further journeys.

I was especially happy that Vasya got to be reunited with her siblings, who disappeared from the action somewhat abruptly in the first book. Arden fruitfully explores the tensions between them, as well as Vasya’s struggle to express herself in a world that represses and limits female power. Vasya’s relationship with the frost demon Morozko is also developed into a poignant Beauty-and-the-Beast story arc that yet resists falling into mere stereotype. And a wonderful new character is introduced in Vasya’s niece, who, it seems, will play an even more important role in the third book.

I’m definitely looking forward to that one, and glad that we won’t have a terribly long wait. In the meantime, if you enjoy the intersection of historical fiction and fantasy, this series may prove a perfect winter treat for you.
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I don't even know where to start. 

The Winternight trilogy is one of those stories I always meant to start but book one (and therefore this sequel) kept being pushed aside for more pressing reads. Now, I'm kicking myself for not reading sooner because Vasya's story is truly my new favorite thing in the world. 

Let's start with the basics. The prose is gorgeous, full of magic but with a dose of darkness to remind you how most fairytales, in their original form, are gritty, violent things. It's not overly stuffy though; this story could've easily been twice as long but Arden deftly chooses her words for the maximum impact and wonder. The unique voice Arden uses in the novel also ups the immersion factor for the reader. The pacing is wonderful too. It's impossible to put down and yet each chapter is satisfying. Arden's handling of Russian folklore is expert as well. From the little loyal domovoi to the infamous Koschei the Deathless, Russia's rich tradition of folklore is represented so well here. I studied Russian at university and it made my heart so happy to read as Arden wove all these separate creatures into one, cohesive tale. 

Of course, it's not a review without a look at the characters. Vasya is just wonderful. She's spunky and strong but still naive and young enough to not fully appreciate what's happening around her. And yet, she also has these moments of outrageous courage and wisdom well beyond her years. I would consider Vasya to be one of those great fantasy heroines, always knowing she's different and owning it naturally, and Arden writes her in such a way that you really feel everything she does throughout the story. Of the secondary characters, Morozko is fascinating to me and I thought Solovey was very well done. Often animal characters grow silly through a story but Arden knocked that out of the park. 

Immersive and beautiful, I could not recommend this book (and the whole series) highly enough. It's a truly lovely story with something that every reader can enjoy. I already can't wait to read it again. 

Note: I received a free Kindle edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review above. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher Del Rey Books, and the author Katherine Arden for the opportunity to do so.
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An excellent second installment.  There were a few points where I just was tired of the level of conflict, but it's fiction and that's what moves us forward.  I love how Arden weaves the tales, how she gets myth and legend and history all together.  And I'm eager to read the conclusion.
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This book picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale left off, so I recommend not leaving too much time between reading these. Grief stricken by the deaths of Dunya and her father, Vasilisa sets out traveling with her horse, Solovey. She dresses as a boy for safety. She is reunited with her brother and her sister. After a skirmish with bandits, the Grand Prince of Moscow calls her a hero. Her deception becomes difficult to maintain. If the Grand Prince finds out she is a girl, her family will be in danger.

I love everything about this series. The combination of Russian folklore and medieval history is fascinating and unique.
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This was a very good follow-up to The Bear and the Nightingale.  While the book started off slowly for me, focusing mainly on Vasya's sister and brother, once Vasya (literally) rode back into the picture, everything picked back up. Vasya had to find her place in the city of Moscow, trying to please her sister, her brother, the Grand Prince, her old friend (?) Morozko, and most importantly, herself.  With the threats of being accused of witchcraft, having her true identity revealed, contracting an unwanted marriage, and helping to defend her people against invasion, Vasya must decide who she is, as well as who she wants to be.
The author, as in the first book, does wonderful job of transporting the reader back to medieval Russia, with all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.  I felt as though I could feel the steam of the bathhouses, see the muddy sludge of melting snow, and smell the inside of the towers where the women were confined.
While this is the second book in this series, the ending wraps up the action in the book quite nicely.  The story was exciting, well-developed, and compelling.  While the very end seemed just a little bit rushed, it didn't bother me.
This is a very good series, steeped in folklore and Russian history with a very strong heroine at the center.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA, Fantasy, Adventure, Folklore, and/or Russian history.
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Definitely a worthy sequel! I must admit the first book in this trilogy had left me not completely satisfied, but "The Girl in the Tower" is another story altogether. 5 stars
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I absolutely loved this trilogy. The Girl in the Tower was a great followup to the first book, the action and excitement ramped up but it felt natural. I couldn't get enough of the characters and the world.
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"I want freedom," she said at length, almost to herself. "But I also want a place and a purpose. I'm not sure I can have either, let alone both. And I do not want to live a lie."

This pretty much sums up the theme of this second book that began withThe Bear and the Nightingale. 

Vasya is of two worlds. In this second book she has come to Medieval Moscow, disguised as a young man, but she knows it is not sustainable.  The spirits of the houses and stables are still alive, there, but weak because of the bells of Christianity. 

It is a bleak life for women, in this book, and of course Vasya does not fit into the mold they have made for the female of the species.

Very exciting second book, and now I am racing on to the final one.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book for an honest review.
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Uugh, I liked this even more than the first book.

Truly, how riveting. This book managed to wrench out of me so many emotions that I literally had a hand over my heart at one point while reading the damn thing. There is  waxing and waning tension from start to finish, and I was left absolutely transfixed.

Now why did I enjoy this book more than the first one? Well, as much as I utterly loved the gleaming, magical nature of the first installment (and I think the prose is more lovely in that one), I felt the thrust of Girl in the Tower had better momentum, balance, and finish. This book actually addresses the "bigger picture" in which it juggles a larger cast and presents higher stakes, and it was in such regards that I felt a tad more satisfied.

Furthermore, the world-building and lore was as achingly gorgeous as ever, and the addition of even more complicated family relationships elevated my emotions to a fever pitch. The convoluted feeling of frustration and love between Vasya and her family was suffocating yet heartrending to read, and the lovely message that I took away from it was that family can be your greatest boon and burden, and you can't ever escape fact.

Lastly, the author finally sold me on the romance. Like, I am here for it. I still am not the biggest fan of Morozko being used as plot convenience in Vasya's times of crisis, but his poignant final scene in the book almost made me weep. Not to mention, I relished the friendship between Vasya and Solovey (gosh darn, they're so adorable together) as the witty banter broke up the otherwise solemn, almost oppressive nature of this book.

Now here are a few nitpicks, as usual. This book was near-perfect in my eyes, but I did find the reveal of the villain a tad predictable, and his abrupt personality change left me in want of nuance (he felt like a mustache-twirling villain at the end). Also, the finale again felt slightly rushed, though this was alleviated by the fact that there were waves of drama that slowed down the pacing and made the rush much less apparent this time.

Bottom line, this book adds in layers of complexity and drama that I found lacking in Bear and the Nightingale, and that's why I had such a bangin' time reading this. The prose, the lore, the morals, the much more perfect can a book get? 


Should you read this book? I will hound you if you don't!

Honestly, I don't have much else to say, but I do feel like I haven't praised nearly enough just how subtly yet glaringly feminist this trilogy is. The oppressingly patriarchal society of these times is so well-ingrained within these characters that the feminist themes do not feel preachy in the least: this book SHOWS its morals, not tells.

So regardless of whether you liked The Bear and the Nightingale or not, I feel like this book can offer something new for all readers. If you enjoyed the dark yet whimsical ambiance of the first book, you'll again find that here. If you would've liked more political intrigue and characters interactions (like me), no need to look any further.

Final thoughts: I'm melting.

The family dynamics made my heart sing and ache. Vasya's struggles made my blood boil on her behalf. The gentle, poignant nature of the romance was the first time in a long time that I shipped two characters, and my heart is officially thawed. Hallelujah.

So if you are ever in need of a tender yet harrowing ride that will still manage to pack one hell of a punch, this trilogy is for you. (Seriously, go read it ya'll.)

My rating: 5/5 stars
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Absolutely loved this book. Very different from the first book as this is more of an epic journey than the first book which was mostly exposition and setting up the characters. I particularly loved the twists and reveals, there were the perfect amount of breadcrumbs to mostly lead to the right place and yet it still managed to be new and surprising which is a difficult task to achieve.
I look forward to reading the third installation!
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I honestly wasn't the biggest fan of the first one - the premises was super interesting but I was hoping to have more emphasis on the folklore part. This one however, exceeded my expectations. The heroine, now an outcast, goes on a crazy adventure and defies traditions and conventions. I still wished more emphasis on the folklore part and maybe more backstory about them since I'm not super knowledgeable about them.
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I was absolutely caught up in the continued harrowing, and poetically nuanced tale of Vasilisia Petrovna (Vasya). A girl who can see creatures straight from Russian folklore. A girl who just might have the will and wherewithal to change history. A girl herself straight out of the pages of Russian fairy tales--Vasilisa the Brave.
Disguised as a boy, riding her beloved stallion Solovey, Vasya begins a harrowing flight from her homeland and the Forest of Lesnaya Zemlya to Moscow (Muscovy) to seek shelter with her sister Olga, the Princess of Serpukhov and her brother and monk, Alexsandr. As her journey unfolds I was caught up in her wildness, her unfeigned delights and her heartfelt sorrows. When Vasya takes up the mantle of a warrior and friend to her cousin and Grand Prince Dmitrii Ivanovitch her fate begins to unravel, or maybe change direction. Vasya comes up against the customs and prejudices of those in the city of Moscow. The conflict between the chyert brothers, Morozko the Frost King, spirit of Death, and Bear the Winter King is woven throughout. The tartars threaten Moscow, the god deceived Father Konstatine lurks in the background. Vasya's deception of Dimitri will have consequences. Vasya takes up a horse race challenge and the plot spirals into breath catching heights and incalculable emotions.
I read on entranced, alarmed and caught in the web of Arden's spellbindingly lush medieval Russian world, always underscored with a haunting grimness, captured by the happenings around Vasya, her family and Frost. Her word pictures have the strength of sight and scent.

A NetGalley ARC
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Beautiful writing and imagery, It moved a little slowly. I did not like how Vasya treated her horse in this installment, and found it to be depressing. Bottom line, I love the writing and atmosphere, but the story leaves something to be desired.
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Arden's talent is more fully realized with each book she publishes.  Her facility with bringing folklore and mythology to life all within a historical setting is to be admired.  I find myself being drawn into her stories in the kind of way that distracts you from what you should've been doing that day.  I can't wait for the ending of this series!
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I can't really explain this magical book but I love this series a lot. Vasya has to pretend to be a boy to survive in the world and while Morozko tries to stop her he ultimately can't control her. He just wants her safe but he is growing to love her. She accidentally comes across some bandits and helps to save some kids. In the meantime, the Prince and Sasha are trying to find those same bandits. Vasya has to lie to the prince and her brother and sister help to keep her safe. That is just the start of Vasya's crazy life in book two. This plot was twisted and fun. 


Vasya is now a woman just trying to survive in a world where women are not treated the best (sound familiar??) She wants adventure and to be free of the handcuffs society wants to put her in. Morozko/The Winter King is still sexy and I just need him to spread his cold beauty my way. I loved Sasha. He was a bit overbearing and protective at times but he was a really loyal brother. Olga was a little difficult to like because she wanted to put Vasya in a box just like everyone else. The characters are dreamy and they pop off the page.


A whimsical journey just like book one. I love Arden's writing so much and how magical her books make me feel. I get completely lost in the stunning prose and fantasy elements that mixes Russian folklore and history. The character's jump off the page and the plot will leave you breathless. Plus the subtle romance that is building keeps my heart pounding with a need for more. I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Winternight trilogy. 

Favorite Quotes
"Think of me sometimes," he returned. "When the snowdrops have bloomed and the snow has melted."

"I'm sorry," he said, surprising her. She nodded, swallowed, and said, "I'm just so tired—" He nodded. "I know. But you are brave, Vasya." He hesitated, then bent forward and gently kissed her on the mouth.

His answer was not in words, but his hands, perhaps, spoke for him when his fingertips found the pulse behind her jaw. She did not move. His eyes were cold and still: pale stars to make her lost. "Vasya," he said again, low and—almost ragged, into her ear. "Perhaps I am not so wise as you would have me, for all my years in this world. I do not know what you should choose. Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.

"It is all I have," he said. Then he slid his fingers through her hair and kissed her.

She had never been kissed before, not thus. Not long and—deliberately. She didn't know how—but he taught her. Not with words, no: with his mouth, and his fingertips, and a feeling that did not have words.

"Vasya, there is nowhere to go." She smiled. "There is the whole world, brother. I have Solovey."

"No. You cannot fade; you are immortal." Vasya reached for him, caught his shoulders between her hands. On swift impulse, she reached up and kissed him. "Live," she said. "You said you loved me. Live." She had surprised him. He stared into her eyes, old as winter, young as new-fallen snow, and then suddenly he bent his head and kissed her back.
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I found this one harder to read than the first. The misogny got to me! So ick. Also, I was depressed that she was being so stupid. And that he was being so stupid! You know you're going to probably most likely find a way to be in love and together in the 3rd book of this trilogy! I don't enjoy being all emotions jerked around. Sob, sob. 

So, this is still great. Still excellent writing and characters and wonderful and would recommend. I look forward to the conclusion!
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The Girl in the Tower is the second book in the enchanting historical fantasy Winternight Trilogy. While you could pick up and read The Girl in the Tower without reading Arden's delightful debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, I would not recommend it as you might feel lost about the cast of characters and unclear on the great world building. 

  The Girl in the Tower skillfully avoids the dreaded middle book syndrome. Arden expands her  world with new characters and a new setting in Moscow. Some readers have complained that the pacing was slow in this book, but I did not find it slow at all. I was completely captivated with the story and its multiple moving parts. 

  Now that her fellow villagers believe she’s a witch and her protector is gone, Vasya is no longer safe in her village. She is struck with wanderlust and fully dismisses the only "accepted" roles of a woman: to be either a wife or a nun. With the help of the enigmatic frost-demon Morozko, who feels a fatally human attraction to Vasya, the young woman learns to wield a knife and make herself at home in the frozen forest. Disguised as a young man, she loads up her pack and rides her beloved magical steed, Solovey, into the winter wilderness, south toward Moscow. After rescuing several girls stolen from burned-out villages, she makes her way to Moscow, where she finds her sister Olga, now a royal matron who is very familiar with court politics, and her brother Sasha, a monk with a swashbuckling side. 

   Vasya as a boy is welcomed with open arms, however, danger of her secret identity is lingering very close. Arden demonstrates society's double standards for gender very well throughout this story and the feminist themes are articulated very well without being heavy handed in the book. Despite Vasya's fervent desire to be more than just a girl is overturned in the novel, her frustrations with society's very rigid notions are highly relatable and real even in the 21st century. 

  There are plenty of surprises in the book and lots of foreshadowing of what is to come in the third and final book. While this book wraps up neatly without a cliffhanger, I still have questions and I definitely want to see more of Morozko.
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In this highly satisfying followup to The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya's journey of self-discovery and independence continues as she sets off, dressed as a boy, astride her trusty stallion Solovey. Struggling to survive but guiding by her heart and will to do good, Vasya attracts the attention of the Grand Prince Moscow and soon finds her story intersecting with her sibling's stories, forcing Vasya to maintain her deception. But at what cost? 

Adventure and fantasy abound. Readers will clamor for the final installment in this gripping series.
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An awesome historical fantasy set in medieval Russia, and just as brilliant as the first in the series. I love the atmosphere, the plot, and the characters (even those we love to hate are magnificently portrayed). Definitely on my list of all-time favourites. 

(ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley)
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