The Girl in The Tower

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Feb 2018

Member Reviews


What have I just read??? This book is so freaking fantastic!!!

When I first read the first book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, 75% of that book was set in the beautiful confines of the Spring Court, and after the second book, the series takes a new turn, more of a serious turn to serious business, thus making the protagonist’s world bigger and more lethal and dangerous. Same goes for Vasya’s world and story in this book. In the first book, Vasya’s story was confined within the pastoral setting of Lesnaya Zimlya, a small village nestled in the middle of nowhere. Her fight with the antagonist was smaller scaled and she had only to fight a supernatural antagonist.


In this book, author Katherine Arden takes it to the next level, by getting Vasya out of the pastoral little village setting and into the large and bustling setting of Moscow, where even walls aren’t just walls and danger lurks in every little nook and cranny. Alongside the supernatural antagonist there are human antagonists aplenty, making Vasya’s life thrice as hard and quadruple times more at danger. The stakes are higher and from here on, it will only get sky high. So hold your breath and feel your heart pound, if not stopped to skip a beat, at some plot twists and turns. Because by the time I was finished, I was left breathless and gaping. This book gave me all the reasons to hold my breath and get jumpy nervous for the characters.

The story picks up where it left off. After the tragic death of her father, Pyotr Vladimirovich, at the hands of the Bear, Vasya leaves her little life in her little village and sets out to travel the world, against the better judgment of her ally, Morozko, the frost-demon. Here, some of the previous characters such as Kolya, Alyosha and Irina are not brought in. They are absent 100% from the book but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any of her siblings in this book. Ms. Arden brings back two of Vasya’s older siblings into play, Olga and Sasha, and thus expand the story and take it to the next level.

Morozko also gets a better and larger role in this book, and I have come to love this adorable, mercurial, cinnamon roll frost-demon so so much. I’m certain most of the readers will come to love and root for this adorable cinnamon bun too *heart eyes*

However, you might find Konstantin Nikonovich here too, causing more and more trouble for our poor Vasya. I dunno what to do with this good-for-nothing, fanatically religious dude. He just can’t stop obsessing over our Vasya, loving her and hating her and lusting over her. Every time he enters a scene, even by mentions, I just wanna throttle him and bitch-slap him a lot. He is at the top of my “Characters I Wanna Kill” list. Can’t he just die already? Ugh ugh ugh!

More players come into play too, including Marya, Olga’s daughter and Vasya’s little niece; the Grand Prince of Moscow, Dmitrii Ivanovich; and a mysterious boyar, Kasyan Lutovich, as well as several new demons such as Dvorovoi, Midnight and a Firebird. Solovey is as loving and cutie as before, if not more sassy and savvy. I just love this horse so much. Last time a horse character made me love them this much was Kamala, a flesh-eating demon horse from The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.

Also, I love love love Vasya’s character here. She is tested like never before and pushed to her limits. Her personality both changes and remains the same throughout the book. She is still the tomboyish, hoydenish girl we all come to love and root for while she defies and destroys every bit of ridiculous and infuriating rules and roles for women in that society and time. Yet she becomes a more humble, more sympathetic and empathetic person who understands the plight of most of the characters around, even most of her antagonists. She grows as a person and in age and experience and I’ve never been prouder of her than now *proud tears*

Overall, I cannot stop gushing about this book. Ms. Arden has gifted us an amazing story with an equally amazing protagonist set in a dangerous world where one wrong step or breath may cost your life if not of those you love. Every moment took away my breath and made me an ardent fan of this book. I thought I cannot love the sequels any more than the first book and she proved me wrong. The story only gets better and better from here on.

I’d 100% recommend this book to any and all readers of young adult fantasy. You’ll love it.

Thank you, NetGalley UK and Penguins Random Horse UK, for entrusting me with an eARC of this magnificent book. I hope my review did this fantastic book justice.
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The author beautifully develops upon the magnificent world she created in The Bear and The Nightingale. If you love Leigh Bardugo, you will love this series. The book explores mythology and even brings in some new characters. I loved this book so very much! I cannot wait for book three!
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Accused of witchcraft and falsely blamed for the death of her father Vasya has two options open to her, accept an arranged marriage or join a convent. Unsurprisingly neither of these choices hold much appeal to someone as independent as she is so instead Vasya disguises herself as a boy and, with the help of Morozoko, sets out on her own to travel the world and have an adventure. It's all going pretty well until she catches the attention of the Grand Prince and he insists on taking her back to Moscow where two of her older siblings are caught up in her lies and forced to help her continue her deception. And that's where things really start to get complicated.

I absolutely adored The Bear and the Nightingale so I had incredibly high expectations for The Girl in the Tower and thankfully Katherine Arden didn't disappoint. The sequel had everything I loved about the first book and more and I was immediately sucked back into Vasya's world. These stories are just so atmospheric and really make you feel like you've taken a step back in time to medieval Russia and I enjoy exploring that world through Vasya's eyes. She's a great character who is so independent and who wants to live life on her own terms no matter how restricted women's lives were at that time. That reckless streak does get her in trouble on more than one occasion and it also makes things extremely difficult for her siblings but I could understand her desire for more than marriage or life in a convent.

Morozoko continues to be one of my favourite characters and we get to see a lot more of his history in this instalment of the series. I'm enjoying finding out more about his character and I'm not going to lie, I'm totally rooting for him and Vasya to end up together! This series is going from strength to strength and I can't wait to see how it ends in The Winter of the Witch.
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I liked the first book better. I could have left my review at that. I liked the first book in the trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale better, much better.

The second installment was very heavy, very slow and not very magical at all. The Girl in the Tower was more like a story of woman’s struggle for her place in the male dominated society. Well, there is nothing wrong with such a story… However, it did not feel right at all. It felt like an outsider was trying to translate a story into a language difficult to understand even by that very same outsider. The whole story felt wrong, made up and convoluted.

Yes, the story was beautiful, full of well-researched details. But it was as different from the first installment as bad is different from good.

Unfortunately, I do not think I will read the third installment in the series.
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Why did I pick it?
Having read the first in the trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale, I was looking forward to reading the second instalment. I had enjoyed the first one, but I think because it was so different from anything I’d read previously I was a little unsure what to make of it. That wasn’t the case for this one, I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting and I couldn’t wait to start it!

What I loved about it
The PACE! The Bear and the Nightingale could be slow at times but this one kept up a steady pace from the off. Coupled with the gradual building of suspense there were times when I couldn’t put it down.

This second book really grew Vasya as a character. It reminded me of Game of Thrones in a sense, where subtly, and over the course of the book, the younger characters start to mature and grow into themselves. This was certainly true for Vasya and I look forward to seeing her character develop further in the third and final book.

The world building in this book is incredible. Although it’s something I’ve come to expect from any good fantasy novel, I felt that in this second book Katherine Arden took it to another level, with a mixture of Russian Fairytale references and her own interpretation of the empire we know from history.

What I loathed about it
Very little! If I had one niggle it was that sometimes the use of the Russian fairytales needed some prior knowledge, as they were often brushed over. It didn’t hider the story that much, but when new characters were introduced, especially the mythical ones, I didn’t always understand who/what they were.

A fantastic, fast-paced and epic tale that I can’t wait to continue in the third and final instalment.
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Where to begin with my love for this Winternight series?! I adored The Bear and the Nightingale so have been itching to pick up this book and follow the further adventures of Vasya and this is just a perfectly magical tale, full of bravery, heart, folklore and emotion.

After TBATN Vasya is seeking revenge, answers and a new life. All that is expected of a young girl of the time is marriage, but that isn't on her mind so as she is exiled from her village she sets off dressed as a boy as safety to right the wrongs of the magical world she is part of. Along the way she finds villages burned down where bandits have come along and stolen the young girls of the village and killed everyone else, and she is determined to seek those causing such devastation.

She is introduced to the Grand Prince of Moscow on her travels and he is in awe of this 'young man' but she is recognised by her brother Sasha who left the village years ago to become a monk. He feels annoyed at his sisters' behaviour and is torn by his family loyalty and fears the consequences if she is found out.

As with book one, the setting is just truly magical. There is beauty in the forests but it's also a very brutal place and that double edge sword is explored throughout this book. Vasya as a character is much more mature in this book but she doesn't lose that spark that made her so special when we first go to meet her. Being reunited with family members also brings out another side to her and is touching to see.

I loved spending more time with Vasya - a feisty heroine ahead of her time who is never afraid of daring to achieve the impossible, no matter the obstacles put in her way. Highly recommended!
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Loved, loved, loved this! The magical/fantasy elements were right up my street and I was completely entranced from start to finish by this wonderful story.
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The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, Hardback, £12.99 at Waterstones.

The Girl in the Tower continues Arden's first novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, by revealing page by page, what happens to the beloved Vasya. This novel seamlessly follows Vasya on her travels to finding her family and herself. 

In The Girl in the Tower, the reader is given an insight into Moscow and its current struggles. As if power struggles and potential war wasn't bad enough, traceless bandits are beginning to steal daughters from quiet nearby villages. This novel also gives its readers an insight into the life of Vasya's other family members, Sasha and Olga. With everyones viewpoints beginning to clash, conflicts begin to rise, as does your reading pace.

The Girl in the Tower remains set in medieval Russia and clearly demonstrates Russian tradition and folklore. Katherine Arden has twisted these concrete concepts with a significant relation to feminism. It is because of this that the novel seems so fresh and current, regardless of its setting.

To conclude, The Girl in the Tower is fast-paced and flows seamlessly from the first novel in the Winternight series. Feminism is embedded throughout the novel, demonstrating current views into a medieval time. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it has left me wanting more. Closure is given however it does not stop you wanting to read the next one asap! The end of The Girl in the Tower is very fast-paced and gives the impression that the third novel will have a significant beginning.

You can pre-order the paperback here or you can order it from Amazon for the Kindle.
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After reading the first title in this trilogy (The Bear & the Nightingale), I couldn't wait for the second title..... and it certainly did not disappoint. The first title, at least to me, was quite calm compared to the second, which was full of adventure, but still captured the charm of the Russian folk tales that I enjoyed so much in the first title. I cannot wait until the final title in this magical trilogy.
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Another fascinating story by Katherine Arden. The story is of non stop action and being continually surprised by the unexpected. The whole is imbued with magic and it completely fascinating. The characters are easy to identify with and all their activities are essential to the development of the story.
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The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden was featured on the February 2018 Librarians' Choice Top 10 list
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“She was supposed to tire of her folly, go home with her necklace, wear it, and tremble sometimes, at the memory of a frost-demon, in her impetuous youth. She was supposed to bear girl-children, who might wear the necklace in turn. She was not supposed to-“

*I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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.

Why did I want to read? I didn’t really like The Bear and the Nightingale, but I heard Arden talk about her writing process and the differences between her first and second book, and that made me willing to give the second in the series a go.

Although I found Arden’s first book in the Winternight series, The Bear and the Nightingale, only ok, I absolutely loved The Girl in the Tower. I think mainly because it was everything I wanted TBaTN to be.

(There are spoilers for TBaTN because of it being a direct sequel, but none for TGiTT)

Fast Paced and Action Packed

Katherine Arden gave a talk to my book club last year, after we read her book (the book club leader runs an AirBnB she happened to stay in when she was in Oxford). One thing she marked as a major difference between her first and second instalments was the time frames both operate in.

TBaTN takes place over 16 or so years, following the protagonist Vasya as she grows up. I found it incredibly slow paced, and while Arden was good at writing slow build tension, I really didn’t feel like the ending had much impact considering how long it took to get there. To me, it felt like the book only picked up towards the end, and was then cut drastically short once the action began.

In comparison, Girl in the Tower is filled with action, all of which takes place over a six week period. While the first section is a little slow to begin, as we catch up with Vasya’s brother and sister in Moscow, once we’re back with Vasya, shit is going down.

The stakes are so much higher in this book, and Vasya a lot more willing to take things into her own hands. She also just has a lot more autonomy, because now she is venturing into the world dressed as a boy, with all the freedom and risks that entails. While Arden was perfectly capable of writing a slow, suspenseful story, I much prefer her rapid paced, well timed, and easy to follow action sequences in this book.

What I loved was the way you could see the danger in Vasya’s actions even if she refused to. This book was told perfectly to show you two points of view – Vasya’s, who is relishing her freedom and feeling it’s unfair that any other woman be denied it, and the world around her, who will interpret her breaches of etiquette as madness, or worse, witchcraft. Because the second perspective is always haunting the actions Vasya takes, when you find yourself in the conflict stage of the book, you can easily see how you got to that point. And still continue to route for her. The ominous elements of her narrative where really well crafted.

Vasya’s independence and what she does with it takes place against the backdrop of Moscow, and its growing tension with its aggressive neighbours. I loved the movement from the isolated countryside to a more epic scale, as the story moved to encompass violence, war, and the political climate of Moscow. It both makes the story more interesting, and shows the research Arden has done into all elements of Russian culture.


My gal Vasya is killing it

I loved how much more freedom Vasya had in this book, because it meant we got to see so much more of her character.

Vasya has always been plagued by accusations of witchcraft, on account of her being able to see the chyertie, but mostly because of her refusal to fit into the noblewoman model of traditional femininity. The ‘Tower’ part of this book’s title – despite its fairy tale connotations – actually refers to the fact that noblewomen in Moscow were often incarcerated in their homes their entire lives, with the act of even going outside being a breach of etiquette. In this environment, Vasya’s yearning for adventure is obviously transgressive.

What I loved is that Vasya grows over the course of this novel, whereas I didn’t feel like she did much in TBaTN. While she begins the book still seriously damselled (count the number of times Morozko fucking saves her, like Jesus), over the course of plot she becomes more capable, as her disguise as a boy enables her to act on her impulses and do all the things she’s always dreamed about doing. She starts to actively fight for and save herself, and her connection with Morozko becomes less assymetrical as she becomes more aware of and confident in her own abilities. She fights, she boasts and shows off her skills, she acts unrestrained and uses the liberties of her boy disguise to fight for justice.

My favourite part of this book – no direct spoilers – is when Vasya meets Konstantin, a self-righteous priest and antagonist from the first novel, again. Their interaction is incredibly cathartic and basically says everything you wanted to be said in the first book. It shows how far Vasya has come, and how little she cares about societal expectation. One thing I really loved about Vasya is how she refuses to partake in humiliation. When something demeaning happens to her, or people try to force their expectations on her, she simply doesn’t let it happen. She truly felt ‘unflappable’, even in moments when you could tell she was hurt or unhappy.

All of this is done without shitting on the other women in the book. Although Vasya hates traditional femininity, she shows appreciation for its power, in the semblance of her sister Olga, who is a powerful princess. While Vasya can’t imagine fitting that mold, she doesn’t resent the people who do. When one girl expresses the desire to get married to someone she actually likes, Vasya is incredibly supportive – it’s only patriarchal oppression that she actively despises. Whereas in the last book she was very isolated from women who actually cared for her (her stepmother being her main companion), in this book she is shown to have multiple complex relationships with the female members of her family, as well as other younger female characters.

However, I’d like to point out that Girl in the Tower, as a “girl dresses as boy” story, may feel problematic to some due to its trans erasure. While the extremely restrictive definition of womanhood in this book somewhat necessitates Vasya’s disguise, and she does interrogate what it means to stand outside people’s conception of femininity, this story does not discuss transness in any way.


Lots of Magic!!

Also, as a footnote, this book has so many more supernatural elements!! This book is much more firmly a fantasy, to me, than the previous instalment. While the first book feautred chyertie, and examined the church’s interactions with folklore and superstition, its slow pace and lack of action meant that not much happened in terms of actual magic.

But in this book, we have loads more fantasy motifs, as well as much more visibility of Morozko as a character. Vasya’s own questioning about whether she is a witch – not just because of her not being feminine, but because of what she can do – is reflected in the book’s movement towards a much more supernatural setting.


I was surprised by how much I loved this book, given that I was underwhelmed by the first book in the series. I loved how much more well rounded Vasya and other characters became. If you like fast paced Russian fantasy, this is definitely what you should read!!

Rating: 4.5/5
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Following on from The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden sees heroine Vasya encounter more supernatural powers across the historic, Russian-inspired landscape.

The end of the last book saw Vasya be rescued by the Winter King, Morozko, a powerful master of death who resides deep in the forest. He has taken a liking to Vasya and her wilfulness, although he is reluctant to admit that to himself, and has agreed to teach her some self defence and provide her with weaponry. With these new skills, Vasya thinks herself ready to ride for Moscow and be reunited with her sister and brother.

However, upon leaving the Winter King she comes across villages burned by bandits, with the few survivors telling of how their daughters have been kidnapped. Mistaking Vasya for a boy, the townspeople are thankful when she promises to return the missing girls, using her connection to the village spirits to guide her to the bandit camp. Earning herself a reputation as a brave fighter, Vasya then comes face to face with her brother, Sasha, and Prince Dmitri.

Now under the guise of a man, Vasya is putting both her brother and sister’s reputation at risk, with them all risking expulsion from the Moscow court if the prince finds out their lie. Then there is the added complication of the priest from the first book, who is convinced that Vasya is in league with the devil and is determined to get rid of her from his thoughts. With enemies on all sides, this time Vasya’s threat is not just supernatural but political as well.

Despite remembering the first book to be a complex read, I was keen to read this continuation out of my love for Russian folklore and the history of Moscow. We finally reach the capital in all its glory, with Vasya becoming swept up in the excitement of court and in pretending to be a man, which offers her more freedom than she’s ever experienced. I think this made the plot move quicker, in time with city life rather than the slower build up offered previously in their home village.

It also offered Vasya far more potential to grow, as she is on her own now, travelling where she pleases and helping those in need. She knows that if her gender is discovered they will try to send her to a convent, and there would be nothing worse for her free spirit. I also felt that this book allowed her to mature as a woman, as she begins to learn the ways of men and the subtleties of interactions between genders. It is with Morozko that this newfound confusion manifests most, as she is unsure how he feels about her and what his actions might mean.

Although he gave her the tools and the horse to ride freely, Morozko still pops up and saves her if he deems it necessary, even interfering in her family life when she calls upon him. As we don’t get to see his perspective, it is hard to tell how he really feels, and I found this to be a big part of the book’s intrigue. He is mysterious and mythical, and we still don’t know how deep his power really goes, or what he intends for Vasya’s future. Whereas it was easy to see him as a saviour in book one, this time around I started to question his motives and realised that we actually don’t know much about him.

I feel like this series still has a lot of places to take us before everything makes sense, with there being some deep rooted mysteries yet to be solved. There is a mythical history surrounding Morozko that we still know nothing about, with Vasya having to make a choice about where her loyalty lies and who she can trust. I for one am excited to see how the final book in the trilogy ties up all of these loose ends.

 A fantasy series set in historic Russia, this second instalment was more enjoyable than the first, with the groundwork having been laid for significant character development. Our heroine Vasya grows in strength and is beginning to come to terms with the world around her, trying to find her place whilst also fighting back the darkness. This book leaves enough questions that you’ll be keen to read the final instalment, which is sure to test Vasya even further.
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Stunning sequel to the Bear and the Nightingale which follows the events of what happens to Vasilla after the dramatic events of book one. 
Free from her little village she sets out to explore more of the world on her own with only her horse for company but danger is always lurking around the corner and she is never true my as alone as she thinks.
She also encounters other familiar faces on her journey to discover not only the world but who she really is.
Beautifully written series with book three eagerly awaited.
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I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This goddamn book. I can't deal with how excellent a follow up this was to Arden's series. I am in love.

 The Girl in the Tower The Bear and The Nightingale. picks up from where we left off at the end of Vasya is sent on her way to begin exploring the world but the Winter King is never far from her side. I loved their relationship, I think Arden did a really good job of balancing Morozco's perception of Vasya's naivete with his growing emotional attachment to her. I think it layered in really well with the rest of the story.
 We follow Vasya to Moscow after she escapes from her village for fear of being tried as a witch by her village's people, and in a chance encounter falls into favour with the Grand Prince of Moscow disguised as a boy.
 I'm so glad that we get to see more of the urban medieval setting Arden is working with. We see more of Vasya's two older siblings Olga and Sasha - and get a first glimpse into looking at how her relationship with her older siblings has changed as she and they have grown older and wiser; they all feel more weathered by Russia the further into the novel we get, but that at the heart of their interactions lies their loyalty to one another and that's something I really appreciated. 
 Vasya's time exploring the world also gives her a greater appreciation for how dangerous her behaviour is for those she loves and that her freedom carries with it a grave price. I appreciated her growth as a person - I think Arden did a good job of making Vasya learn about Russia. She grows to understand that her actions have consequences now that she is no longer sheltered by her father.
 Arden continues to blend history with fantasy and, although we are told that Moscow is decidedly less spiritual than the rural area Vasya is from we still get a mythical sprinkling of characters and folklore, it almost makes the shadows cast in every room Vasya enters all the more interesting, we are left to wonder, who might she meet here? We are also introduced to some new members of Russian folklore including a mysterious tower ghost and a magical and deadly fire bird.

 The plot moves steadily along, and I won't give too much away but if you liked the pacing of the first novel you will definitely appreciate the sequel. Again, the writing style lends itself to the reader being gradually fed bits of information and while some of it is predictable, or at the very least guessable I can appreciate the work that's gone into making the novel move how it does. I think it encourages the reader to really appreciate what kind of danger Vasya is in when she dresses as a boy and lies to the ruler of her country. 
 Still though, Vasya works to desperately hold onto what freedom she is given. She wants to explore and see a world she's only heard about in stories. She's incredibly stubborn and strong willed, and refuses to compromise who she is for a society that refuses to understand her.  At the heart of the story, Vasya's agency drives everything and Arden even goes as far to explore what happens when Vasya is the one taking another's choice away for her own sake. Vasya is selfish, and loving, and Arden did a great job of showing the reader how...complicated the pursuit of freedom can be, even when the premise is as simple as being who you are and doing what you want.
Our supporting cast is a strong one, although I thought the main antagonist was a pretty predictable choice, though I found their backstory and background really interesting. Sasha and Olga both feel weighed down by their roles in Russian society and I really appreciated the return of a certain creepy priest from the first novel. I like that Arden made his weakness apparent on his skin, that he has become as weak in the flesh as his personality is on the inside, and I wonder what else Arden has in store for our gullible, feeble friend?

In short, I loved The Girl in the Tower and I cannot wait to read the conclusion to the series. It cannot come around fast enough.
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In this, the second of Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy we continue the story of Vasya. As a young orphaned girl who is suspected of witchcraft options are few- to enter a convent or let her sister arrange a marriage for her. Both options are anathema to her freedom loving spirit and she chooses her own path- to disguise herself as a boy and ride away on her horse into the forest.

The land is scourged by bandits, destroying villages and stealing the young girls. After coming across a devastated village she Vasya is determined to rescue three girls. This leads her down a dangerous path.

Fairytale? Folklore? History? This trilogy has them all. This second book is a worthy follow up to The Bear & the Nightingale. Vasya's character is continuing to capture the imagination. I can't wait for the finale. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me spend time in Vasya's time & place.
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WOW, this truly lived up to the legacy of the first book. I felt Arden really excelled in her character writing, as the changes and progression that Vasya goes through flowed naturally and felt authentic to her character.
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I absolutely adored the first book and was quite worried that the author couldn't replicate the same magic in her follow-up.  I was thankfully dead wrong. Roll on book 3! Thank you for the opportunity to read this ARC.
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A fantastic continuation of The Bear & The Nightingale. Vasya is becoming a woman, which is at odds with her appearance as she disguises herself as a boy in order to ravel freely.  Far more action-packed and perilous than the first book, there feels less folklore and magic, but the ride is indeed still a beautiful, lyrical yarn.
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There is so much to ‘The Girl in the Tower’ by Katherine Arden, follow-up to ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’. A strong female heroine, magical mystical Russian folklore, fighting, horses and danger. Vasya is an awkward teenage girl in the mythical Middle Ages of old ‘Rus who does not like her traditional choice of marriage or convent; in ‘The Girl in the Tower’ she is older and more defiant. You just know she is heading for trouble. She leaves home to wander and look at the world, refusing to worry about survival in the winter forest, and in so doing stumbles into banditry and violence that has implications for the power of the throne. I read the second half of this at a pace, wanting to know the outcome, not wanting it to end. 
A faster-paced book than the first of the series, the two are tightly linked and so I hesitate to give away too much plot. Disguised as a boy, Vasya cannot help but attract attention despite the warnings of her magnificent stallion Solovey. Her exploits bring her to the attention of Dimitri, the Grand Prince of Moscow, and red-haired lord Kasyan Lutovich. Feted for her fearless fighting, Vasya’s disguise becomes more difficult to protect. Reunited with her brother Sasha, the monk who is Dimitri’s best friend and adviser, Vasya must maintain her disguise or risk the lives of her family. The secret must be kept at any cost.
It is a pleasure to read these books, confident that author Katherine Arden has a supreme hold on her material, the legends and the world she has created. And in Vasya she has a heroine who confronts evil in its many forms – the human sort of swords, ambition, bigotry and malicious words – and the superhuman sort of gods and demons, a firebird and magic jewels that confer control. Arden describes this world, and Vasya’s adventures, beautifully. In this second novel she grows from a teenager to a young woman, bringing with it an awareness of attraction and a kiss with a frost-demon. In parallels with heroes of other fantasy fiction – Philip Pullman, JK Rowling – Vasya shows respect for people and creatures which others may ignore and demean, so earning their loyalty and support at critical moments.
These are adult fantasy tales, complicated, dense and a rollicking read. A quite unusual combination. Can’t wait for the third in the series.
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