THE WINTER OF THE WITCH by Katherine Arden

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingaleand The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all. 


Title : The Winter of the Witch
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book three)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 372
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : January 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, though unlike the other books in the series it was only my second time doing so. Not to sound like a broken record but I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to have been reunited.

Love is for those who know the griefs of time, for it goes hand in hand with loss. An eternity, so burdened, would be a torment. And yet –yet what else to call it, this terror and joy?

Unlike my recent reviews for book one and two, however, I am SOL to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I was too in my feels to properly review it at the time. And I’m pretty much right back in the same boat so, like, damn this sucks.

The world has lost its wonder.

As opposed to the book which resoundly does not.. suck, that is.

You shouldn’t have told them I was a girl. Then they might have believed that I was dangerous.

If I thought I couldn’t say much about book two its a whole lot of that but more for a finale. But if you’re expecting a big confrontation, or two (or three?), a whole bunch of secrets revealed, heartbreak, and romance, and tears, and more? You’ll get it. A lot of all of that.

I am sorry for this awful non-review review but you’ll just have to believe that the book, this series (this author!), is worth reading. I truly honestly cannot recommend this series enough. And cuddling up to it on Christmas Eve, with some much deserved snow coming down? Nothing better.

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues 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, cut off from 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 graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.


Title : The Girl in the Tower
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book two)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : December 5, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and yes if you’re feeling deja vue I had also just reread The Bear and the Nightingale for the third time, too. I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to be reunited.

Witch. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

That said, as with my recent review for book one, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have actually changed.

Has the world run dry of warriors? All out of brave lords? Are they sending out maidens these days to do the work of heroes?
There were no heroes. There was only me.


I honestly don’t know how to review this book. So much of this story relies on book one’s plot and information but the basics are : The Girl in the Tower is a story about a brave girl and her impossible horse. But it’s also a story about the tug of war between the faith in the old world, the myths and the legends, and that of God and wealth and power. It’s about the harsh bite of cold, the hollow cramp of an empty belly, villages burned to the ground, girls stolen away in the night, and a power desperate to be unleashed from its bridle. And through all that, Vasya is still fighting for her place in the world — not that of marriage or stuck in a convent, but for adventure.. and to be believed by those she loves. The politics in book two take a sharp turn, though they’ve always been present, and an uprising must be stopped even as an ghost from Vasya’s past, who plays a significant role in a present-day evil, is laid to rest.

It is going to end. One day. This world of wonders, where steam in a bathhouse can be a creature that speaks prophecy. One day, there will be only bells and processions. The chyerti will be fog and memory and stirrings in the summer barley.

The Bear and the Nightingale is like a slow-moving chill, it creeps up on you and chips away at your warmth ever so subtly, until you’re frozen. Whereas The Girl in the Tower is more like trying to out-pace a blizzard. Both books are enjoyable but in this sequel we see Vasya tested even more than she was in the first book.. and we also see her rise above. She gets a glimpse of who she could be if not for the constraints of her sex and it’s bittersweet and beautiful.

Curiosity is a dreadful trait in girls.” 

Knowing how this one played out in advance, I loved picking up on all the clues, all the foreshadowing, that Arden laid out for her readers. None of the excitement was lost; and certainly none of the trepidation, either, for a specific chapter with a certain race. I now feel my own bit of added trepidation knowing what awaits me in book three. I want to race to it but I also want to lurch to a halt and wait. I want both. I want it all.

Suffice it to say, you need to read these books. Arden’s series is atmospheric, harsh, brutal, unkind, beautiful, magical, wonderful, hopeful. It’s everything. You deserve some of that.

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden – double review!

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, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever 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.


Title : The Bear and the Nightingale
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight #1
Format : Ebook / physical hardback
Page Count : 328
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : January 12, 2017

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

This read has been a journey, from starting the wrong book in the series first – I started Girl in the Tower, I don’t know how to explain my idiocy. Then I got back on track with the right book and found a slow build of the world and story. By mid-way I didn’t know if I was going to move from my middling feeling but the second half completely won me over.

This was a historical story of a Russian family, reasonably well off, living in a forest community with harsh conditions. But really this was a story of folklore, a reimagining of Russian tales and assembled around the character of Vasilisa (Vasya). Vasya was a daughter, a sibling but more than anything, she was wild, free and spirited. Added to that spirit, she saw the forest and house spirits and made friendships with them.

Some of Vasya’s family were great and some were not. I enjoyed reading about the family dynamics, her father, her brothers and her step mother. For a while though, it seemed slow and Vasya was young for a long time. In retrospect, I see how this built to a story of detail and depth and it made the foundation for the second half rich.

I loved when we finally got to Morozko, I felt like the whole story had been sewing seeds to get to this point. The cresendo of the story was creepy to me but I got through those aspects and loved where the story ended up. So here I am, converted unexpectedly. I feel like this is one of the cleverest tales I’ve read and I’m really looking forward to starting The Girl in the Tower again.

Thank you to the posse who have been book-pushing this one for a few years but mostly to its first champion, Hollis the bear-pusher.


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and for some reason I thought my last visit had been more recent, that I had read this last year. Nope, it was 2018. I cannot believe how long it’s been, considering how much I love this world, but also I was definitely due to revisit. I needed this. And I had some rereading buddies along for the ride this time which as a lot of fun.

I think you should be careful, [..], that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing.

That said, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original review from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have changed.

It’s time to put aside dreaming. Fairy tales are sweet on winter nights, nothing more.

For fans of UPROOTED who have still not read this book, I have one caution for you : I did feel the beginning of this book to be a little slow. But that’s likely because most readers come into this expecting a breakneck fantasy instead of a fairytale. Additionally, Arden takes the time to set up her story, layer it, with different perspectives from different characters prior to the birth of our heroine. And those multi-perspectives continue even as Vasya does become our main gateway into this story.

So you mean to go to the woods and die? A noble sacrifice? How will that help anyone?
I have helped all I can, and earned the people’s hatred. If this is the last decision I can ever make, at least it is my decision. [..] I am not afraid.

However, that slowness doesn’t mean it’s boring. Unlike the aforementioned novel this book is compared to, THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is one in a series, not a standalone, so we can afford this gradual unfurling of setting, people, and atmosphere. And they are all excellent.

Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than you willed it.

The first in the Winternight Trilogy blends legend with religion, myth with reality, and the upcoming battle to be waged between two forces, all set in the northern region of Rus. Vasya’s character was so charming and she’s also such a perfect role model for any YAers reading this book; strong, not traditionally pretty, adventurous, kind, wanting more for herself than is expected of her sex. Really, she’s a role model for us all. 

All my life, I have been told to ‘go’ and ‘come’. I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed to me.

Wild and fey, she roams the woods, seeing things others don’t, and eventually it’s she who sees the damage being done by the newly arrived priest who urges the townsfolk to let go of the old ways and embrace God. The use of fear as a tool is what lets in the very real, very evil, darkness, what puts Vasya and her family at risk, and while there is loss and tragedy that befall those she loves, there is still such hope and lightness in the story. 

You should not have left your hearth.
I had to. They were going to send me to a convent. I decided I would rather freeze in a snowbank. Well, that was before I began to freeze in a snowbank. It hurts.

The last time I had read this book I was preparing for book three. Now, knowing everything that is to come, and how it all ends, gave me such a new perspective, let me pick up on a few things I might’ve missed. And yet it didn’t take away any of the joy, the heartbreak, or the wonder. This story is so magical, Arden’s writing so bewitching and clever, and even in the telling it really feels like curling up with an old favourite, a familiar tale you’d grown up with but forgotten over the years. It’s nostalgic and comforting and yet I am so excited to read on and get to THE GIRL IN THE TOWER. Where it’s everything I mentioned above but so so much more, too.

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