The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

I listened to the first book in this planned trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale, on audio book last year.  So I figured I would continue with book two, The Girl in the Tower, in that same format.

And like the first, I really enjoyed it. In fact, I may have enjoyed the second book more.  It is a fascinating blend of history, magic and drama with religion, politics and family dynamics thrown in. Arden balances the old world’s magic and the new world’s religion well, and treats each seriously or at least with a sense of history. The characters have depth and personality even those that are not a central focus.

Also like the first, there is a feminist thread running throughout in the sense that the limited options of woman are quite obvious. Marriage and family or the convent basically. But what makes it powerful is the personality of Vasya. Imagining her in either role illustrates the lack of freedom without becoming preachy or lecturing.

Vasaya’s relationship with Morozko and her attempts to understand her place in the world, and where he might fit into it, is a thread within the story.  But again the family dynamics, politics and cultural/religious environment all make up a fascinating non-magical element and were the parts I found most fascinating and entertaining.

Arden successfully allows you to imagine the world of medieval Russia and the complex society that Vasya finds herself caught up in.  The layer of secrets that make up her life really builds the tension and the resulting emotions are quite powerful.  Twists and turns and surprises abound as you rush to the conclusion.

I highly recommend this series. If you have a long car ride or trip ahead, even better.

The Girl in the Tower Book Cover The Girl in the Tower
Winternight Trilogy
Katherine Arden
Del Rey
December 5, 2017

A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale. Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch. Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey. But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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