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.