Vasya has long seen creatures from legend, and her ability to see has brought trouble down upon her and her family. Only the aid of Morozko (Frost, the winter demon from the stories) has kept her alive so far, and the love of Solovey, her magnificent stallion. With her parents dead and her village casting her out as a witch, Vasya knows her options are limited: life in a convent or marriage to a Moscovite prince. She wants neither, and disguises herself as a boy as she sets out to explore the world.
She finds burned villages, missing girls, and bandits that vanish leaving no traces behind. After she rescues three girls from the bandits, the Grand Prince of Moscow calls her a hero, and she is reunited with her brother and sister. But Vasya cannot reveal that she is female, or her entire family risks disgrace and death. Soon she realizes that a danger stalks Moscow and the Grand Prince, and even Morozko, who she no longer knows if she can trust, may not be able to help her.
Have you ever identified with a character so completely that it almost broke your heart? That’s how I felt about Vasya as I was reading The Girl in the Tower. Everyone wants her to be content to marry, raise a family, and be conventional, but she wants anything but that. She wants to travel, live her life, and be happy, but the people around her don’t want that for her: they want her to conform. And she doesn’t want to hurt those she loves, so she’s torn.
Vasya is a powerful character, so relatable that you want to cry for her struggles. This is a magical, vibrant book, and wonder permeates every page. The setting is so vividly depicted that I found myself shivering—and I hate cold weather!
Katherine Arden is from Texas, but lived in Vermont, Russia, Hawaii, France, and Hawaii (again). She has picked Macadamia nuts, made smoothies, and sold real estate, but now she writes. The Girl in the Tower is her newest novel, the second book in The Winternight trilogy.
Go. Read this! And if you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale, read it first!
(Galley provided by Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)