Title: The Girl in the Tower
Author: Katherine Arden
Type: YA Fantasy
Length: 363 pages
Published by: Del Ray
Pub date: Dec 5, 2017
Source: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: ★★★★★
The short version: While I enjoyed the first book a bit more, I am still 100% in love with Arden’s writing, and I can’t wait to read the last book in the trilogy!
The long version: Seriously, guys, after the first few pages of The Bear and the Nightingale, I knew Katherine Arden would be going on my auto-buy authors list, and The Girl in the Tower did not disappoint! Her writing is so enchanting and lyrical, and I adore the medieval Russian setting!
“Almost midnight- that wicked, magic hour- on a night menaced by ice and storm and the abyss of a featureless sky.”
One of my favorite things, and part of what made me so excited for this book, is that we get to see more of Sasha and Olya. I loved Sasha in the first book, and was probably just as sad as Vasya was when he left. So, naturally, I loved hearing parts of the story from his perspective, too! It was interesting to see him balance his life as a priest with his upbringing as a warrior, and I really enjoyed seeing him in his element in Moscow.
Unfortunately, with these two new perspectives also comes one of my two complaints about this book. Sasha and Olya are both very different from who they were in the first book. With Sasha, it’s a bit easier to see how he would have changed and become who he is now, but Olya is nothing like I remember from Book 1. There’s some mentionings and implications that both of them have been hardened and changed by the politicking in Moscow, but it’s never really shown. In her author’s note, Arden says, “the fairy-tale form… does not always leave room for the infinite shades of gray necessary to do this location and time period justice.” I get that, really I do, I just wanted to see a little more of what made Sasha, and particularly Olya, into the people they are today.
Unlike her siblings, our beloved protagonist, Vasya, has not changed nearly as much. She’s still a wonderfully strong-willed young woman who isn’t about to back down. She goes through a fair amount of development as she journeys through Russia and has to navigate not only its cold landscapes, but its politics and her own feelings, as well. What I love about Vasya is that, even though she isn’t considered feminine for the time period, she never denies her femininity. Even while passing as a boy, she refuses to cut her hair. She builds a connection with other young girls throughout the story based on their discontent with their lot in life. She doesn’t resent the fact that she is a woman, just the expectations placed on her because of it.
“Witch. The word drifted across his mind. We call such women so, because we have no other name.” -Sasha, about Vasya
Vasya’s journey is fueled by her desire to escape those very expectations. Unfortunately, that journey feels a little slow to start. We sort of flip between Sasha’s and Vasya’s perspective for the first part of the book. While I loved getting to read both their perspectives, that first part lacked the suspense that carried me through the lulls in Book 1. That suspense entered the story at around the 25% mark. That first part was still so well-written and absolutely incredible, it just didn’t make me read it in one sitting like I did with The Bear and the Nightingale.
I think a big part of it was that there was no hint about the antagonist in the first book or the beginning of this one. I knew there was going to be a bad guy, because every good fairytale has one, but Vasya had already faced down the Bear, a monster who emodies fear itself. It was hard to imagine a villain worse than that, so it was hard for me to feel any suspense until we actually met the antagonist.
And, because my pent-up angst demands it, WHAT IS MOROZKO’S DEAL?! SLIGHT SPOILER!!I mean, just admit that you love Vasya, already! I’ve been waiting for this ship to sail since Morozko first gave Pyotr the amulet for his daughter, and now it finally starts to happen, and he gets all broody and leaves? Man up, ya icy frost demon! … Literally, though. Because Vasya deserves your love. Okay. I’m done.
All in all, I am still absolutely in love with this author and the world she’s created. I cannot recommend her writing highly enough, and I might die of impatience waiting for Book 3!
Thanks for reading!