The Winter of the Witch

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Spellbinding!  A wonderfully creative and action filled ending to this trilogy.  Katherine Arden never disappoints!
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This was a beautiful ending to a beautiful trilogy. I was captivated from the first book to the last. I loved reading a retelling of a  Russian fairytale. 

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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An utterly beautiful retelling of Russian fairytales and folklore perfectly meshed together with Russian history and its people. I cannot praise this series enough, and this was an absolutely mesmerizing conclusion to the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden.

As part of the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch is achingly wonderful. The tone, the pacing, and the plot were brilliant; the overall story arc was encapsulated for its finale with perfect pitch. All the while weaving together its own story and standing solidly on its own. Arden's writing is once again wondrously magical—thrumming with its own heartbeat and breathing its own life.

As a reader, watching Vasya grow up over the course of the three books into such a believable and whole person while being so fully immersed in this fantasy world is beyond amazing. Arden has her growth as a character perfectly charted and has allowed this organic and natural quality to blossom within this woman she has created.

I will absolutely read whatever else Arden produces. In fact, her Middle Grade book, Small Spaces, was so enjoyable. It really impressed me with how she was able to transform her writing voice to completely suit the target audience. Her talent and skill so clearly come through in her writing, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
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A wonderful conclusion to a beautiful trilogy. I loved the elements of Russia and the popularity of Vassa becoming more mainstream in America! If you love fantasy and fairy tales you do not want to miss.
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This was a solid conclusion to The Bear and the Nightengale trilogy. I am really sad to see it go. Vases is a wonderful character. She is tough and endures many hardships. The romance was well-developed and had a fairytale feel to it. Thus, this series will be sure to stick with you long after you finish this.
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It's hard enough to write an ending to a story, I can't imagine trying to wrap up a whole series. How do you close the door on your characters and their world while making sure that you've done justice to your narrative arc? There have been plenty of authors who've stumbled trying to thread that needle. The first two entries in Katherine Arden's Winternight series have been some of my most-enjoyed books of the past few years, so while I was looking forward to the third and final entry, The Winter of the Witch, I must admit that I was nervous, too. What if the way she wrapped up the story' fell flat? Luckily, we as readers have been in good hands so far and Arden proves that the success of the first two entries was no fluke.

As in the previous installment, Arden picks up her narrative right where she'd left off: Moscow is burning and Vasya is a wanted woman. After a narrow, dearly bought escape, she ventures into the realm of Midnight to seek out Morozko, the frost demon with whom she has an increasingly complicated relationship, and free him from the captivity he's been placed under. Meanwhile, her monk brother Sasha is trying to repair his relationship with the Grand Prince of Moscow, now on a seeming collision course for battle with the Mongols. Then there's the influence of the chaos demon Medved, whose interests suddenly have some alignment with Vasya's own. And Baba Yaga herself even shows up. As a decisive conflict draws ever-nearer, Vasya is fighting not just for Rus', but the preservation of the world of sprites and spirits she loves. 

Arden has built a beautiful, enchanting world over the course of this series, and this book is a fantastic conclusion to it. I've gotten so interested in Slavic folklore over the course of my reading this series, and this entry added even more shading to this rich background. I was really curious as to how Arden would handle the slow-burning romance between Vasya and Morozko...she's never shied away from the wildly imbalanced power dynamics between them and I thought her resolution to their story hit exactly the right note. And the constant reference to political and religious power struggles within Rus' over the course of the series turn out to be more than just window dressing, introducing me to historical events I'd had no knowledge of beforehand.

There are some little things that I wished had been done differently...I found myself wishing for just a little reorientation at the beginning of the book (unless you've literally read the first two within the past couple months, you'll probably be a little bit lost, like I was). And I admit I'd hoped for a bigger role for Baba Yaga. She's such a prominent figure in Russian mythology that everyone knows she's got to make an appearance in this book, but I wish there'd been more of her. But honestly, this is one of the best series closers I've ever read, wrapping up the story in a way that felt natural rather than forced. This series is amazing and I recommend it to everyone! I can't wait to see what Katherine Arden does next!
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Rating 4.5/5
 The final book in the Winternight Trilogy that began with The Bear and the Nightingale. A moving and imaginative series that tells the tale of Vasya, an unusually spirited girl in the Russian wilderness that finds herself as a pawn in a battle between figures in folklore and organized religion that denies their existence.  Vasya's strange friendship with the Frost King, Morozko, puts a spotlight on inherited abilities that causes her village to fear her. Will she be able to save her family and her country from the forces that seek to destroy them? 
       Normally I do not review the final books in a trilogy but I had to make an exception in this case. The whole trilogy is lush and lyrical, like a modern fairy tale. Reading it reminded me why 
I first fell in love with literature. The Winter of the Witch was a wonderful ending to an unbelievably poignant and heart-wrenching series filled with adventure, self-discovery, and love in all forms. I cried at the beginning of the book and I cried at its ending; not because it was a sad ending but because I was so moved by the story.  If you are looking for an epic adventure perfectly suited to these cold winter nights, I highly recommend this series.
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The third novel in Winter Night Trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower being the first two, written by Katherine Arden, this novel is the end of Vasya’s journey. And it is wonderful.

Condemned to burn as a witch by the people of Moscow, led by Konstantine, Vasya manages to escape. But the Winter King already let lose The Bear, and chaos will reign.

This novel continued on as the last two did, told from a number of perspectives we get to continue to watch Vasya become who she truly is. And that is a person, neither good nor evil, but trying to do the best she can. She is trying to make up for her mistakes. She is trying to save her people.

One of the things that I greatly enjoyed about this novel was that the final conflict is an actual battle that happened in Russia.

Okay, okay, so let’s break this one down.

The writing: wonderful and perfect story telling. Arden strikes a balance between telling us detail and leaving enough to the imagination that you are able to create your own world.

The characters: in this novel there were characters new to the story, but well known to our characters. They all had depth when they needed it. The creatures of stories aren’t going to necessarily be much more than you expect them to be. But they combine together very well.

The plot: This plot takes a lot of turns. And the whole time the plot is pointing out that it isn’t doing the smart thing; Vasya keeps fighting. She keeps trying to do the right thing, even if bad things happen. Which brings home the ideas in this book so very well. Seeing the Winter King as he once was at his highest was a joy. The quote below, spoken by the Bear to the priest, I think summarizes the themes of this series excellently. And was a lovely foreshadowing as it was spoken early in the book.

There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.

The Bear
Overall, I really loved and enjoyed this series. Highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Unless you don’t like fantasy or historical settings. Then maybe you might not enjoy reading this.
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The final book in the Winternight trilogy, Winter of the Witch, was excellent. All three books kept calling me back until I finished. I love the characters, the elements of Russian fairy tales and the blending of history as well. Thank you Katherine Arden for a wonderful story.

Thank you NetGalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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A satisfying conclusion to an amazing series. While there were moments that lost my attention, they were not often. Most of the time I was drawn into the story unable to put the book down.
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*ARC received from NetGalley in return for an honest review* 

While it took me a while to actually pick up this book it did not disappoint. It kept me up late at night and almost late to work one day because I was sucked into the wonderful story. Katherine Arden has a way with words that brings everything to life. I don't want to give everything away, but this book is just so wonderful I recommend the whole series to everyone.
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The third volume of the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden, The Winter of the Witch, is a bit like three novellas in one book which makes it slightly more disjointed than the previous two books in the series, but it will not disappoint fans of the earlier two books.  It is just as full of magic and myth and Russian folklore as the previous two books, and it nicely rounds out the series.  If you have not read the first two books, it really does not stand alone very well ( as the previous two books do), but as a sequel which ties up loose ends, I give it high marks.  So I do not recommend reading it unless you have read the other two novels.

A blurb about the author at the end of the novel will give you an idea of why Arden, an American author, writes so beautifully about Russian folklore:

“KATHERINE ARDEN is the author of the national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. Born in Austin, Texas, Arden has studied Russian in Moscow, taught at a school in the French Alps, and worked on a farm in Hawaii. She currently lives in Vermont.”

The book is fiction based loosely on bits of real Russian history also from the medieval era when the country was becoming united from a number of smaller kingdoms.  It was also historically a time when pagan ways were battling with those of Christianity.  Real figures from that era and a real battle features in this book alongside the fictional plot, and, alongside figures from folklore like the golden firebird and Baba Yaga.

From the author’s notes at the end of the novel:

“Almost from the earliest days of drafting The Bear and the Nightingale, I knew I wanted to end my trilogy at the Battle of Kulikovo. This battle always seemed to me to create a natural point of reconciliation for many of the conflicts I wished to consider on the pages of these three books: the Rus’ against the Tatars, Christian against pagan, Vasya trying to balance her own desires and ambitions with the needs of her family and her nation. 

The path I charted to get to the battle has varied wildly since those early days. But the destination never changed. 

The Battle of Kulikovo really happened. In 1380, on the Don River, Grand Prince Dmitrii Ivanovich acquired his historical moniker: Donskoi, of the Don, by leading a combined force from several different Russian principalities against a host commanded by the Tatar temnik Mamai. 

Dmitrii won. It was the first time the Russian people combined under the leadership of Moscow to defeat a foreign adversary. Some have argued that this event marks the spiritual birth of the nation of Russia. I have chosen to take it as such, although in reality, the historical significance of this battle is the subject of ongoing debate. Who, if not the novelist, has the right to cherry-pick historical interpretations that suit her best? 

My fairy-tale version of this battle ignores the incredible amount of political and military maneuvering that led up to the event itself: the threats, the skirmishes, the deaths, the marriages, the delays.”

The series begins in a small village in northern Russia in The Bear and the Nightingale.  The main character is Vasilisa—a young woman with the rare ability to see and speak with the natural spirits or chyerti of the homes, stables, and lands and waters.  She gains the attention of and is helped along the way in her quest to protect her homeland by the mythical winter-king Morozko, god of death.  After fighting and binding a demonic bear in order to protect the peoples of her country, Vasya ( Vasilisa)travels from the small village to Moscow.  In book two, The Girl in the Tower, she masquerades as a boy while fighting to protect Moscow and her family from both an evil sorcerer and the Mongol invaders.

The Winter of the Witch begins right after a huge fire has burned much of Moscow leaving chaos in its wake. A corrupt priest, Konstantin, who blames Vasya for the fire, is able to influence the people of Moscow to make Vasya into a scapegoat whom they can blame the fire on.  They nearly burn her to death as a witch. 

Miraculously she escapes.  

The vast Tatar armies, the Golden Horde, are still on the move against Moscow, and Vasya makes perilous journeys through magical midnight lands as she tries to save her country and the humans and spirits that she loves. 

The novel ends with a fictionalized version of the real Battle of Kulikovo in 1380.

If you are a fan of myth and folklore, these novels add other elements such as a coming-of-age story and romance to those traditions and do so with beautiful lyrical writing.

Many thanks to the publisher, Del Rey, and to NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy of this novel and for allowing me to review it.
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This is a lovely trilogy from Katherine Arden, and I thank the publisher and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of The Winter Witch in exchange for an honest review. I will post my final review once I have finished all books in this series.
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Fantastic. This is the finale. It is triumphant and sad and tragic and awesome and I didn't want it to end. This books is full of lyrical writing, so much fae, wonderful strong sibling bonds and complicated romance, Vasya becomes who she was always meant to be and it is as heart breakingly glorious as I always knew it would be.
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I read this immediately after the previous books which was something of an experience, to read the series as a whole.

 The last installment of the trilogy is everything a finale should be, it has battle , reconciliation between family and many other epic things. We left Vasya in dire straits in the last book as well as evil at large. This evil is dealt with twice in this book both times in a different fashion and for different reasons. The difference between the tones made it almost seem like two separate books but that's about the only partially negative thing I can say about it.

We deal with three members of the original family. Our leading lady Vasya, Olga and Sasha. It is not difficult for any of these three to endear themselves to anyone, despite their hardness and occasional brutal decisions( more in Vasya's case than anyone else's ). It is the tenuous link between them that makes it an interesting read. The war itself and the machinations put into action for it are detailed and engrossing. Overall this series makes you feel welcome into a culture that is different and none of the 'new' topics introduced ever feel jarring or overwhelming. This finale rewards the investment of time and emotions into this series. I normally am a happily ever after person, but after finishing this, even I could not argue with the ending nor think of a more appropriate one.
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This ridiculously beautiful, stunning, emotionally draining finale nearly killed me, but I need everyone to read the entire series now. Please. Grab the Bear and the Nightingale, but also make sure that you have copies of The Girl in the Tower and the Winter of the Witch handy because you will need to finish this series.
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What a fantastic ending to an amazing series! I am so so glad I was given the opportunity to read this book early. Usually by the end of a series I feel like the plot is just completely worn out, but this series goes above and beyond amazing. The books honestly just continue to get better. I'm extremely sad that this is the last book but it had a fantastic ending.
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A fitting conclusion to a fantastic trilogy from a brand new author. Vasya, a girl living in Russia circa the 1300s, has only two options in life: marry a man and settle down as his house-bound wife, or join a convent to live out her days diminutively serving God. For someone with a wildness in her soul and the gift to see the mythical spirits of Russian lore, either fates would be as a cage to her. For all she tries, she's unable to hide her powers, and she's quickly branded a witch by all—and let's just say, witches were not treated very kindly back then. So what's a witch to do, if no man is willing to marry her, and she herself has little interest in joining a convent? Go out into the wintry woods of Rus' and make a new fate for herself.

And so she does, meeting a death-god, his wicked twin brother who inspires fear and chaos, and so many others (my favourite being, of course, the adorable mushroom-grandfather spirit Ded Grib), as her journey to freedom soon drags her deep into the political intrigue of Russia on the cusp of war with the invading Tatars.

I have so much praise for this trilogy, I don't even know where to begin. The mesh of fantasy with historical fiction was delightful, and I sincerely enjoyed all the bits of Russian mythology and history I picked up. It's not a setting I'm even remotely acquainted with, but Arden introduces everything with a deft hand, and I never once felt overwhelmed by the unfamiliar environment. 

Another thing I want to express high praise for is the prose. The trilogy is written with a beautiful, lyrical voice that takes its time to lovingly render the story. The first book painted the cold, remote village of Lesnaya Zemlya with perfection, the second masterfully described the hectic city of Moscow, and the last contained a thoroughly delightful exploration of the bewildering between-land of Midnight. If you want a quick-paced book, this might not suit your taste, but it is by no means excessively slow either. The pace, much like everything else in this book, is just right—not too fast, not too slow. 

There's one thing I want to note, and that is how kind the book is to those who conform to social norms. This may be an odd thing to mention, but I've personally found that there is a particular vibe that arises from some books (just some, not all!) that feature powerful female characters, and that is that women who succumb to social norms of the time are weak, or to be looked down upon. Either that, or women who sacrifice things for the sake of love do not deserve sympathy. This trilogy does none of that: Olga, Vasya's older sister who is married and has two young children, is not treated with derision, nor even with pity, but with respect for her personhood. Tamara, who was chased out by her grandmother for her mistakes in pursuit of a certain man, is treated with sympathy by the main character. Vasya herself never acts as though wanting to marry and lead a quiet domestic life is inherently wrong—only that it would be wrong for her as an individual.

The same kindness is shown towards the religious figures in this book. Much of genre fiction tends to be hard on religion in general, swiping a broad brush against it as an institution. We do have the reprehensible, morally twisted and corrupted Father Konstantin, but so too do we have the deeply pious Sasha and Father Sergei, whose faiths are genuine and have power in their own right. Rather than take the well-trodden road of presenting all religion as farcical, Arden does something similar to what Vasya accomplishes by the end of the trilogy: she shows compassion to all parties, and tries to bring them together in a satisfying way.

I don't really know how else to heap praise upon this book. It was not without flaws, but they are small and subjective, and I don't feel strongly enough about any of them to even bother writing it out. All I can say is that I, personally, enjoyed this trilogy, felt it resonate strongly with me, and am earnestly looking forward to future books from Katherine Arden. So would I recommend this? Definitely.
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The end of this trilogy lived up to my excitement. I enjoyed the conclusion of Vasya's journey and felt all the feels as I raced through this epic conclusion. I highly recommend reading this trilogy and it is worth it!! 

*I received this ARC from netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
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While reading, The Winter Witch, I felt as if I was there in the story watching everything unfold and that I could feel what the characters felt. I could feel the despair and the cold in the beginning and the hope and joy and sadness all rolled into one at the end. I could find no fault with this series and highly recommend.
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