The Girl in the Tower: Katherine Arden

★★★★

Winternight: Book II

Hot on the heels of The Bear and the Nightingale comes its sequel: another compelling slice of Russian-flavoured fantasy, prickling with ice and magic. Our heroine Vasya has saved the villagers of Lesnaya Zemlya from an evil far greater than that of the Devil the priests have taught them to fear, and far older than the icons and crosses of their churches. Yet her reward is scorn, distrust and hostility: a reputation as a witch. And so her eyes turn to the horizon, to the wider world she has craved for so long. With her incomparable horse Solovey, she sets out – but not before her path leads her back to a little house in a fir-grove in the forest, where the frost-demon Morozko waits for her.

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The Bear and the Nightingale: Katherine Arden

★★★★½

Winternight: Book I

This book is made to be read in the long winter nights as the year creeps towards its end. Set in the snowbound forests of northern Russia in the 14th century, it’s a fairy tale for those who haven’t lost their sense of wonder: a brooding story of frost and darkness, of endless black forests and the powers that lie within. And it’s a tale of conflict, between the old, primeval world of nature’s power in the here and now, and the new world of Christianity with its gold, glamour and focus on the life hereafter. Into this uneasy world comes Vasilisa Petrovna, half-wild, passionate and blessed with a growing power of her own. Magical and enchanting, this is one book I found extremely hard to put down.

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