Firstly I wish to thank Katie Sunley of Penguin Random House for inviting me to read the second book in this amazing series.
The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.
Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
This is getting to be a truly awesome series. I just became totally immersed and lost into these books so very quickly. The Girl in the Tower is the second in the trilogy and I am already bursting wanting the third book. This story begins where the last one ended and I soon felt the cold of the long Russian winter wrap itself round me and I welcomed it.
Vasya was never going to be what was expected of her, or should I say what could be done with her to make her fit and conform with normality. Entering a convent or marrying would be like clipping the wings of a bird that should fly. The town blamed Vasya for the hard times they were suffering and now the protection of her father had also gone. Taking her beautiful magical horse she began her own quest with the reluctant blessing of Morozko, the frost demon that takes the souls of the dying.
Dressed as a boy, Vasya finds more freedom and now no longer a child she has greater understanding of the gift she has. This story is much deeper and darker than the first, taking place in the villages plagued by ruthless bandits and Moscow and its politics. This is a story that tells of harsh times as death is accepted as much as life but even here there are some very touching moments and unseen forces to other people. It was literally like time had stopped with emotions raw, rules broken and deals made to make bargains against nature.
This is certainly a coming of age time for Vasya where she shows compassion, sacrifice and bravery in a very powerful story. There is something very magical about these Russian fairy tales wound in the words of Katherine Arden. The love and passion she has just bursts from these pages as you read. The research is very extensive with just a fraction of her knowledge continued after the story ends explaining the customs of the Russian people from the way names are given to the terms used. A stunning story.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent her junior year of high school in Rennes, France.
Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrolment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature.
After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to serving as a personal tour guide. After a year on the island, she moved to Briançon, France, and spent nine months teaching. She then returned to Maui, stayed for nearly a year, then left again to wander. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.
HERE ARE SOME HANDY LINKS FOR THE AUTHOR
DO READ THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES WHICH WAS ALSO TOTALLY STUNNING
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
HERE IS A LINK TO MY REVIEW FOR THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE