Published: 5th December 2017
Started reading: January 20
Finished reading: January 30
The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues 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 terrorising 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 realises his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.
I recently read the first book in this series and I enjoyed it very much. It was atmospheric, it was fantastical, it showcased rich and detailed storytelling, and it introduced a fabulous protagonist. I simply had to move on to part two and I am extremely glad that I did, for it contains all of these things, and more.
From the very first page, the excellent, sophisticated storytelling continues. It drew me in, subtly engaging me in the intrigue of Russian folklore and establishing its importance to the plot. It acts as a relatively calm beginning, but then the plot explodes and accelerates, moving powerfully in several directions.
This book is incredibly action-packed. So many things happen and the plot advances considerably from The Bear and the Nightingale, although the fairly quick pace stops it from feeling convoluted. It accommodates numerous characters and significant themes, all amounting to quite an exhilarating adventure.
The writing style is very refined, and is just as lyrical as in the previous book, even though the plot becomes slightly darker and edgier. There were a lot of meaningful and thought-provoking lines, so I highlighted a huge number of passages on my Kindle, and I continue to love the way the series combines history and fantasy with such intricacy. The personification of certain settings and the weather are recurring aspects.
My one slight issue here was with the structure, especially early on where two storylines ended up converging on each other. Katherine Arden also likes to repeat the same words or phrases once or twice too often, but I can forgive that. The thing that I admire most about her writing is how well she knows and understands her characters.
Did I mention a fabulous protagonist? Vasya was amazing in The Bear and the Nightingale, but here she is even better as she grows immeasurably as a character, in what becomes a journey of heroism and self-discovery. She is strong-willed and adventurous as ever, and it is impossible not to like her and root for her.
Vasya develops as a character here in so many ways, and it was especially fascinating to read about her from the perspective of other characters, such as her brother Sasha and sister Olga. Many things happen to her throughout the book; some good, some bad, some traumatic, but it is great to find out how she reacts to them all in her own indomitable way. As you can probably tell, she has become one of my favourite characters!
Her relationship with the frost king Morozko is very complex. Indeed, Morozko is an exceptionally complex character all round. He is powerful and ethereal, but also at times flawed and even vulnerable, leading me to consider him with a mixture of sympathy and curiosity. His story is waiting to be resolved in the final book.
The villain of this book is a very hateful character. For any Harry Potter fans, think Dolores Umbridge – that is how much you will end up disliking them. Speaking of Harry Potter, their means of avoiding death felt very similar to a Horcrux, although that is the only thing in this trilogy so far that lacks originality.
Overall, this was an excellent, relentlessly eventful sequel in what is shaping up to be a magnificent trilogy. The characters show a great level of development, and while at times it may feel like too many things are happening at once, the plot remains well-conceived and ideally set up for the final book. I cannot wait to see how this series ends!
This is an excellent book. Powerful, enthralling, and very well-written with vivid characterisation. I really liked it.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info