The Girl in The Tower

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Oh my God! It really took me too much time to write this review, but this was THE BEST book I read last year, if not one of the best books EVER. I really like the characters in the first book of this trilogy, and I fell in love with the story so I coudn't wait for the part two. And now I coudn't wait for the part three. I really hoped that the publisher will grant me the acces to "The Winter of the Witch" before it was published, but since that didn't happend, I'm (not so) patiently waiting for the copy I ordered the moment it reached the stores. 

Characterization really went a step further in the second part, as well as the quality of the plot and the overall action. I believe that the end of the trilogy will surpass the previous two parts and I can hardly wait to read it.
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Katherine Arden just earned a place on my favourite authors list! The Girl in the Tower was fierce, magical, and heart-stopping. i have never rooted for a character the way I champion Vasya. This will be an instant classic and I cannot wait to see how the story concludes in Winter of the Witch (even though my heart will be broken that it has finally ended).
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After being captivated by The Bear and the Nightingale, the first book in Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy, I couldn't wait to get started on the second book The Girl in the Tower. This book follows directly on from the first and sees Vasay rejecting the only options available to a woman, marriage or convent, and running away from home on her magical horse Solovey.  She is still under the protection of Morozko, the Winter King, and there is also a fission of attraction between them, which adds another dimension to the story.  Under the disguise she goes on a quest to see more of the world and finds herself not far from Moscow, at a village that has been burnt by the Tatars, and female children stolen.  Vasay tracks down the children and in fleeing from the Tartars, runs into her brother Sasha and the Grand Prince of Moscow, which is where her problems begin; the illusion of being male.

Vasay is a heroine for all time, she is feisty, strong, confident with self belief.  She breaks from convention, she doesn't want to be married or have children, or consider the option of the convent.  She is a free spirit that can't be contained and shows great courage in battle and every day life; she sees herself as an equal to the men, and they accept her disguise.  After living in wilderness of Northern Russia, Vasay finds herself in the exotic Moscow, with its towers and churches and the Palace of the Grand Price, and part of her sister's household whilst still maintaining her disguise.  Through her eyes, Katherine Arden brings the sights, sounds and smells of the city vividly to life, the busy markets, the feasts, and the Grand Palace where she eats and drinks with the other men in the Prince's circle.  She still has the eye to see the many demons guarding the home, the horses and palaces, and even her dead grandmother, that single her out to some as a witch.

As with The Bear and the Nightingale, this book is beautifully written, with impeccable attention to detail.  Katherine Arden has a wonderful imagination, both in plot and characters, that make this such a captivating read.  It has the light and shade, the good and the evil that a good fairytale should have, but written to capture the attention of an adult audience.  The characters have depth, the plot is dark but with a hint of humour with researched historical detailing that make this book such a delight to read.

The Girl in the Tower is everything I hoped it would be and more.  I was enthralled by Vasay's story, her journey and her bravery, not just in fighting with the men, but in having the courage to be who she wants to be no matter what anyone else expects of her.  The plot is dark, tense and magical, and will entice you to want more of Vasay's story, especially as the end sets up the story for the final book, The Winter of the Witch, which is published on January 10th.  The Girl in the Tower is simply a marvellous, magical and miraculous read.
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Quality Rating: Five Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Stars

I read The Bear and the Nightingale last winter and immediately wanted to go onto The Girl in the Tower, but the thought of having to wait more than a year for for the final book was unbearable. So, I waited. And then this winter came around and I took the first opportunity to dive into this - and, believe me, I will not be waiting so long to read the final book when it comes out in a couple of weeks. This is a fairytale weaved so widely it becomes myth. It hovers and haunts you wherever you go, and becomes as familiar as the stories you were told before bed just because it has such presence, from the writing to the characters to the story.

There's so much bursting at the seams of these books; all these vibrant historical images that let the reader's imagination fill in the gaps (rather than overwhelming us with information). I'm not particularly familiar with Russian history, nor the culture, yet I can picture everything happening around Vasya; I can even smell the markets and feel the cold wind. You can tell that Arden is as in love with fairytales as Vasya is, and as the reader becomes. Sure, I've been in love with fairytales longer than I can remember, so maybe I'm a biased case, but it rekindled my love of them all over again and made me want to look into the fairytales of Russia specifically.

Really, The Girl in the Tower wasn't the book I was expecting to follow the last one. The first book was almost like an odyssey in itself, following so much of Vasya's childhood and her growth into both the 'real' world and the world of folklore and spirits around her. This time we get into the action and into her adventure. It was just as enjoyable, and it built so well on The Bear and the Nightingale that you have to admire that book all over again too.

One of the things we build on is the romance which, honestly, caught me a bit off guard in the first book. Which is kind of why I liked it so much. As it became a bigger part of the story in this book I fell in love with it more because it was done just right. It's nicely balanced - and weaves into - the main plot line, influencing our heroine's path. There are much higher stakes than just romance, as well, so we feel a weight to the scenes that are romantically driven. It's not there to be self-indulgent, it belongs as much as everything else does. But she is and will always be Vasya first.

And that's why I love the kind of feminism that Arden writes. Vasya isn't invulnerable or the token 'badass', but she won't be held down by what people demand she should be either. The period is managed well in that she is insecure about her femininity (and the 'wicked' connotations her actions have on it in the historical context), and she sometimes wants to give up being a girl altogether. Because wouldn't it be so much easier to be herself? Her actions and ambitions about be accepted if she were a boy. As it is, she would give up a lot for her freedom (love, family, security), and I don't think we see that a lot. In women, it's portrayed as selfish (yet, of course, men are allowed to do it all the time), and that makes it all the more powerful. It's a refuge to readers that don't have the words to say it for themselves. (And it's also then significant when she makes the hard decision to put her family or the spirits first, because we know how much it means to her to have her freedom.)

The Winter of the Witch is only about two weeks away as I write this and it's too long. I need more Vasya in my life, I need to follow her story to its conclusion, because these books make me feel like a child discovering fairytales for the first time again. There's a freedom in reading about heroines like Vasya, and I'm not sure I can wait around for much longer.
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It took me the longest time to get into this one, with many false starts, but when it finally did hook me...it was brilliant. It was a different sort of wonderful than the first book was, but I loved it.

The world Katherine Arden has created is one of the richest and most distinctive I've read in years, and I'm in love with the way she has woven folklore into the story. 

And the characters...I love them, they're all so interesting and complex -- even Vasya's horse had his own unique, and lovable, personality. Vasya was an excellent character in the first book, but I think I liked her even more in this one.

I can't really think of what more to say about the book except that I loved it and it firmly cemented this series as one of my favourite book series ever. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5 -- in spite of the slow start, it definitely didn't suffer from middle book syndrome. 

I cannot wait to read the third book (one of the only reasons I'm glad it took me so long to finish this one is that I don't have too long to wait, thankfully).
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I was so excited to read this! I was fortunate enough to win an arc copy from a Goodreads giveaway and also managed to get an e-Arc, via Netgalley, which I didn't use this time round, but appreciated (I used my physical edition). As always, all opinions are my own.
As well as being excited to dive back into this world I found myself getting super nervous because after enjoying the first book so much, I was worried about disappointment and recalling the first book being such an intense read it took me a while to read. I was therefore anticipating a slower read but was worried it would leave me feeling burnt out and I wanted a strong reading end to the year. Luckily, it didn't feel like that!
I felt a little nostalgic when the story of the snowmaiden was told. I felt captivated by this fairy tale within a fairy tale and it reminded me of the Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, that I believe was inspired by that folk tale. It's so beautiful and sad.
There was a great cliffhanger to the end of part one! It was so cool how the ends of part one and two were basically the same but different perspectives, but I'm sad enough that I sat there, literally comparing the perspectives. They didn't say the exact same things and that bothered me in some odd way! However, the reunions made up for it because I was really looking forward to seeing how they paired up to see what the bandits were all about.
I've adored seeing all the characters, both new and old, obviously Vasya and Solovey being my favourite! Kasyan was another interesting character involved in some amazing twists and I loved learning more about Morozko. They were great at being good, bad and in between! I really liked how true this feels in the sense that Vasya is seen as a witch carrying on in her way as a woman, but as a boy she is honoured as a hero. I found that exploration of gender differences in this period of time very interesting. 
The plot was fantastic but I wasn't as captivated as I was when reading The Bear and the Nightingale, but I have a feeling that's due to the first one obviously having this fresh enchantment of being new and exciting! I found it so much easier to read than the first book though.

Random point, but I've always wondered why the first line or few words of a new chapter is sometimes a different font... is it to grip the reader more and stick out? I'm genuinely curious!

I ended up making a lot of use of the glossary whilst reading this time round and found it so helpful for the words I wasn't familiar with. It didn't halter my reading experience as much as I expected and I appreciated it being there.

I cannot wait for the final book in this trilogy!
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I was so nervous that the sequel wouldn't match up to the brilliance of the first story, but it did!

Widening out into the city exposes us to more characters and motivations. Vasya continues to be awesome, but also shows her naivety in not recognising risks to others.  I loved the complexity of which girl in which tower was being referred to, and decided that it was all of them!

wonderful!
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O.M.G!!!

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.

But…

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.

Thoughts
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 https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56d74c4004426214f2d28631/t/5a6e54d9e2c4832dd2d66fcf/1517180134062/Top10+February+18+A4+Flyer.pdf
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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.

VERDICT
 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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