Published by Del Rey on January 9, 2019
Genres: Alternate History, Fantasy
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In the stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, following The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya returns to save Russia and the spirit realm, battling enemies both mortal and magic.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“I called every power of this land to war, winter-king. It had to be done. We cannot fight amongst ourselves.”
The Winter of the Witch is the absolute perfect ending to this trilogy. It shattered my heart, stitched it back together, then stomped on it. Just in case I had any hope of it ever healing properly.
The previous books in this trilogy are just as beautiful and just as compelling, as we first meet Vasya in The Bear and the Nightingale and see her growing into herself in The Girl in the Tower. In this final installment Vasya is still young and still growing, but she has come into herself as a woman and refuses (as she always has, in her way) to bend to societal expectations.
I was bawling within fifteen minutes of starting this book. And then I cried even harder at the end. I was wrung out, unspeakably sad, and yet there was an undercurrent of contentment and joy and hope that has made me recommend this beautiful trilogy to every. single. person. who would listen!
Vasya, of course. I would go to war with and for this girl. She hasn’t had an easy life but she refuses to be cowed and she embraces who and what she is, even if she doesn’t always understand it.
In her hands was the strength that had broken the bars of her cage in Moscow…”I may die tomorrow. Or live to sour old age. But you are only a wraith in a lake, and you will not command me.“
She has heart, and she loves so fiercely and completely, it completely breaks my soul. Unlike in the previous books, Vasya also explores her sexuality in this one – and while I sort of saw her love interest coming, I couldn’t see HOW exactly it would work out…and then it did, and it was fabulous. Vasya will not take being anything less than an equal, and I absolutely LOVED how her path in life was not something she was willing to give up (nor did she) for anyone, regardless of her feelings for them. So often, even strong female heroines fall in love and give up their plans/dreams for their partner. Not that this is always bad…but it’s so often that it’s almost expected, and it’s definitely still an expectation in our society. It was SO refreshing to see how things settled out for Vasya.
I really fell in love with Vasya’s brother, Sasha, in this one too. He was always a sympathetic character, but his devotion to being a monk sort of turned me off. He really came into his own in this book too, and it became obvious his devotion is really more to people and country than any god. He also stops treating Vasya like a child, and their relationship just blossomed into what I’ve always dreamed a brother/sister bond to be.
Vasya put a hand on her brother’s arm. “Then, if you come with me tonight -” Her grip tightened; their eyes met. “I warn you, the road leads through darkness.”
Sasha said, “Then we will go through darkness, sister.”
Then of course, there are the bad guys…Medved, the Frost-King’s brother, as always up to treachery and warmongering, and the priest Konstantin with his hatred of Vasya and all she represents, coupled with an unrelenting thirst for power. The evil radiates off the page…and yet it is not all so cut and dry. Just as life is not all black and white, no matter how much we may wish it.
A threat from outside will tear Russia apart, but the boyars seem incapable of anything but internal bickering. Moscow burns, and the people blame Vasya. The only way to unite Russia seems to be the road through midnight…
The plot, while it definitely moves the story along and provides the catalyst for the various characters’ actions, is really secondary to the character and relationship development. It proceeds at a rather breakneck pace (unlike in The Girl in the Tower, where it seemed to meander at times), hurtling us all along towards the final bloody conclusion.
While I can’t say I would want to live in Katherine Arden’s medieval Russia, it is certainly beautiful and captivating – while also be cold and cruel, especially to women. She weaves in folktales and pagan traditions with the new Church, and who is to say it wasn’t, actually, just like that?
I am planning to re-read this trilogy every year. I bought the US and the UK editions of all three books. If you ever listen to any recommendations I make, PLEASE GO READ THESE BOOKS.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: