*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden is the second novel in the Winternight Trilogy. The first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale, earned a rare five rocket rating from us because it’s that good. Well, Ms. Arden has done it again: The Girl in the Tower continues the elegant storytelling and magnificent worldbuilding of the first book and earns another five rocket rating for the second installment in the Winternight Trilogy. In the interests of full disclosure, we received a copy of The Girl in the Tower from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The reader is drawn back into the story right where the first book ended. Vasya has left her home for fear of what might happen to her with her father gone and because her wild streak demands she set out to see more of the world than just her small corner of it. Though she sets out to see far distant corners, she doesn’t make it any further than the region surrounding Moscow when mysterious riders take an unexpected interest in her. With bandits burning villages indiscriminately and Vasya’s brother, Sasha, soon at hand, Vasya finds herself embroiled in Moscow’s plots and machinations, and the designs she’d had for her life fall by the wayside.
Morozko is back, as are many other beings taken from Russian folklore. As before, only Vasya can communicate with them. They are an integral part of the story, but not nearly as much as in the first book. There is a deeper mystery in this book, however, one which I won’t go into to any degree for fear of giving something away. I will say only that it has something to do with the title of the book.
Vasya remains a strong and brave character, but one who is extremely vulnerable if only because of the constraints put upon all women of that time period. She does achieve a certain amount of freedom beyond the norm, but only when she is on her own (or subsisting with Morozko’s help). The moment she steps back into society, she quickly finds herself shackled. Any other woman would accept such imprisonment, yet because of her resolve and willingness to sacrifice herself, Vasya breaks free of such constraints and ultimately achieves things that no other person can.
I think it’s important to close with a look at what the author is doing to make this such a great series so far. There’s the setting: Russia, set in a time period that has the flavor of the middle ages. There’s the mythology and folklore, which, despite the influence of Christianity, brings with it a great amount of superstition. Also, there’s the characters, which defy stereotypes in many respects. Last, there’s the writing, which is consistently good and always moving the story forward. Getting any one of these right is not that hard. But getting them all right? It’s not common.
The Girl in the Tower is another fantastic read from a true up and coming author. If you haven’t started reading these books, you need to start now. It’s rare a series this good comes along, so don’t miss it.