Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2)
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.


Friday, December 22, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1)
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year, and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind - she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. 
And indeed, crops begin to fail, even creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows even harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent. 
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed - this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales. 


Truthfully, I had a total book hangover after finishing A Court of Wings and Ruin. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, and I had no idea how any book was going to be able to follow it.

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to enjoy whatever book I tried to read after finishing ACOWAR, because I would try to compare the two and not many books can live up to any of SJM's books. I think this was one of the best book si could have read to "cleanse my palette" before moving on to any other YA fantasy books.

I have been wanting to read this book for a while now, and I think this was an excellent choice to help get rid of my book hangover! It was like nothing I have ever read before! The author draws from Russian folklore, something I' had absolutely no knowledge of before reading this book. I loved the dark fairy tales and the story that the author weaved around them.

Also, I have to thank the author for her note at the end of this book. She starts it with,
Students and speaker sof Russian will surely note, and possibly deplore, my wildly unsystematic approach to transliteration. 
While I know absolutely nothing about the Russian language, I know that I without a doubt would have been one of those frustrated readers if I did and would have greatly appreciated her note that explains her thinking behind her translations and transliteration.

I ♥ Vasya! I love her spirit!
her headstrong spirit and defiance. It didn't matter that everyone told her that she must either get married or go to a convent, simply because that was the "lot of women." She refused to be a captive in a convent or be anyone's chattel, and even though people in her town whispered about her being a witch and plotted against her, she still gave everything to save them.

I loved the ending, and I am curious to see what happens in the next book. I am happy that I have the next book on hand and do not have to wait until the sequel is released (Thank you, NetGalley!). However, the author doesn't leave this book with a huge cliffhanger. If I had to wait to read the sequel angry. I might be a little sad, but not angry.

I definitely recommend this book! It was a nice change from other YA-retellings that I've read.

Stay tuned for my review of the sequel to this book, The Girl in the Tower! I will post it on Wednesday.