The magical adventyre begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues 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, cur off form 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 terrorizing 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 grades - even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.
I couldn't have asked for a better sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale!
TB&TN was a wonderful, unique introduction to the world the way it was in Russia back in the day, and the fairytales of the time. The first book left off with Vasya deciding to leave home and travel around the world, rather than being sent to a convent. This book tells of her travels, which are awesome and crazy and exciting.
This book made me ♥ Vasya even more! She defied all the social norms of the time and proved everyone wrong when they insisted that she must succumb to "the lot of women" and either get married for her dowry and become chattel locked in a tower or be locked in a convent.
I also grew fonder of the fairy tales and house spirits in this book.
I wasn't really sure what to expect when reading these books, but I was delighted with them! These books are an excellent change from the other YA books I've been reading and a pleasant change from other retellings.
Again, the author included a note at the end of the book about her use of the Russian language (See my review of TB&TN for more info on the note at the end of the first book), stating that she tried to stay as accurate as possible and "at least hint at complex depths of personality and of politics- when I could not delve into them more deeply." She also apologized for any inaccuracies or shortcomings and even refers readers to two other books (non-fiction) that will help others learn more about Russia during that time period and the fairy tales of the time.
I also love her explanation of Russian names and nicknames in this book (and transliteration in TB&TN). Before reading these books, I had no idea that Russian names often give rise to so many nicknames. I know in the book, the main character's name is Vasilisa, or Vasya and several other nicknames. The author gives the example: Yekaterina, which can be shortened into Katerina, Katya, Katyusha, or Katenka, among other nicknames. "Variations are often used interchangeably to refer to a single individual, according to the speaker's degree of familiarity and the whims of the moment." This is kind of what I assumed when I read the book, or at least that the nicknames were terms of endearment, such as Aleksandr's family calling him Sasha all the time of Sasha calling Prince Dmitri Mitya when he was worried for him.
Sorry, if you can't tell, I ♥ writing and words and languages (almost as much as I love reading).
Back to the book... Again, the author has not only enchanted and entertained me with Vasya's story, but she also taught me a lot about Russian history, language, and fairy tales. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Katherine Arden!
I definitely recommend this book and The Bear and the Nightingale to anyone looking to read something a little different.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.