Today I have the honour of hosting a spot on the blog tour for the paperback release of The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden. This spellbinding conclusion to a magical trilogy will leave you wanting more – more of the bear, more of the winter king, more of the chyerti, and definitely more of Vasya and her impetuous nerve. Beautifully written and richly imaginative I strongly recommend you read The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower, and The Winter of the Witch in quick succession, because they’re a little like Pringles – you can’t have just one.
Title: The Winter of the Witch
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publication Date: Paperback – October 3, 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction
Themes: Family, Revenge, Folklore, Love of Country
My Rating: 5/ 5
One girl can make a difference…
Moscow is in flames, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to blame. Vasilisa, a girl with extraordinary gifts, must flee for her life, pursued by those who blame their misfortune on her magic.
Then a vengeful demon returns, stronger than ever. Determined to engulf the world in chaos, he finds allies among men and spirits. Mankind and magical creatures alike find their fates resting on Vasya’s shoulders.
But she may not be able to save them all.
I have a confession, I tried to jump into The Winter of the Witch without having read the first two instalments in the series and immediately regretted that choice. The good news is that I was able to secure The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower from my local library, power through them, and then return to The Winter of the Witch with a much healthier appreciation for Russian naming (and nicknaming) conventions as well as the intricacies of the many story-arcs being wrapped up. I mean, the whole series is absolutely masterful, but this ending is epic!
In the wake of events that nearly set the whole of Moscow on fire the Grand Prince’s enemies see the turmoil as an opportunity to wage war while the empire is weakened. And to make things worse, Father Konstantin, a priest with the power to turn minds with his words sets the city against Vasya calling for her to burned alive. She manages to escape into the world of Midnight and finds herself juggling the survival of two worlds on her shoulders. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that age-old demon is once again loose in the world and is terrorizing Moscow, Vasya, and magical world of Midnight simultaneously.
And oh my word, is it ever magical. I mean it’s treacherous and deadly and all together beautiful, but magical. I adored our mushroom cheyrti Ded Grib, the beautiful horses that can take flight, and and the hearth spirits that protect homes and countries alike. But more than anything I loved Pohzar, the firebird, with her haughty sass and irascible temper. Every time she stomped, kicked, bit or refused to carry a rider I was sent into fits of giggles at memories of my own ill-tempered (yet magnetically loveable) mare. Like seriously, all I could think of was mare-stare, except that this mare is on fire – double the danger, double the fun!
But enough about the horses, lets focus on the big guns – Medved, Morozko, and Vasya. Medved is the kind of villain that only gets better with age. He gets deeper, bolder, and more relatable as the book progresses, and is the kind of character that you can easily love to hate. I was completely transfixed by his manipulations, his subtle games, and the hatred that he holds for his brother. He was deliciously deviant, cruel in all the rights ways, but never outright repugnant.
His twin on the other hand is a calm, quiet force that I would have loved to see more of. I was floored by the sacrifices that he made and the faith that he had in Vasya. It’s beautiful how his power and presence waxes and wanes with the seasons, and even more beautiful how he pushes the limits of his power to stay by Vasya’s side in her greatest time of need. He offers gentles reminders of the things that matter most – Solovey, family, and Vasya’s humanity when she’s at risk of slipping under the addictive spell of her own magic.
And I loved that Vasya wasn’t your typically beautiful heroine, that instead she was real. It placed the focus on her intellect, power, competence, and sometimes ridiculously impulsive decisions. Her journey of self discovery was wondrous, especially as she discovered more of her family and the source of her abilities, and as she learned to control the fire within. And through it all she remains brave (stubborn?) and determined, and she never once allowed herself to become undone even when romance and desire came into the picture. And whoa man, is that ever a romance! It’s tense, electric, and achingly desperate. I mean, when the first snows of winter fall I won’t be looking for a demon king to whisk me off at midnight…
The book, this series, so beautifully written that it’s almost impossible to put into words how incredible it is. It’s imaginative, poetic, and simultaneously rooted in tradition and folklore without cheapening it. It’s feminist, it’s ballsy, and it’s tender. But more than anything, it’s one of my favourite reads of the year. If you like rich story telling, deep characters and touch of magic then I can’t recommend The Winter of the Witch and the Winter Night trilogy enough.
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.
She is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. These novels make up the first two parts of The Winternight Trilogy.
Many thanks to Anne Carter at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour. I received a copy of this text in exchange for an honest review.