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The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower

by Katherine Arden

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4147236,808 (4.47)49



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Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
I've always been a fan of fairy-tales, especially those written by (or in the style of) the Brothers Grimm. So, when I read Arden's first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, I was transported to a dark, eerie forest in medieval Russia, filled with sprites and mysterious shadows lurking between the trees. I knew I had to read the second book of the Winternight Trilogy as soon as humanly possible. That was the plan. Unfortunately, I've been swamped with finishing and editing my own book and work for the past few months, and I didn't have time to finish this beauty, much less write a decent review. So, here we are, finally, and I now have both the time and brain capacity to tell you a little more about The Girl in the Tower.

Quick Summary:

While bandits roam the countryside, burning towns and kidnapping young girls, the royal court is in tumult. The Grand Prince embarks on a journey to stop these bandits, alongside his trusted companion, Sasha, and together, they plan to save their people. During this journey, they come across a brave young boy, and only Sasha recognizes him as his own sister, Vasya. Without exposing her secret or her past, they must all work together to put at end to the slaughter.

Things I Liked:

The writing: Adren's style is not only reminiscent of age-old fairy-tales, but it is its own brand of fantasy altogether. The way she weaves history and fantasy together is nothing short of magical, and just like The Bear and the Nightingale, I fell in love with her writing style yet again with this book. This being the second book in the series, there wasn't as much world-building and character set-up, which makes sense, as we are already familiar with the setting and the characters. I always hate it when authors tend to regurgitate every little detail about the world and the characters in a sequel, so it was definitely a big plus for me here.
Vasya: I LOVE Vasya. Back in the first book, we saw her grow up from a strange little girl to a rebellious and reckless young woman. Here, we see her truly grow into a formidable and courageous hero, who refuses to bow to the wills of men and society (more on those two aspects later).
Atmosphere: The mood of this book, just like its predecessor is enthralling. Arden's descriptions, her dialogue, and her inclusion of traditional Russian folklore help to create a truly unique and captivating world for the reader. Throughout the whole book, you feel as if you're the one sitting in front of a cozy fire and listening to a grandmother tell you a story.

Things I Disliked:

Most of the male characters: I just hate that Konstantin guy. WHAT IS THE POINT OF HIS EXISTENCE? And most of the men in the story - though portrayed accurately given the time and place of the book - are just contemptible human beings. They're about as useful as a windshield wiper on a goat's ass, yet they spend the entire book being chauvinistic jerks. While this is an important aspect of the story, it just bothered me at some point, because none of them undergo any sort of development of change.
Plot: While I loved the fact that this sequel involved Vasya becoming a badass warrior and flipping off the patriarchy, I didn't really like the fact that so much of it was focused on her brother. He was kind of in the background of the first novel, so I didn't really care much for him, despite the fact that he seems like a cool guy. He was also a badass, but I wanted more Vasya than Sasha.
The names: I'm familiar with the traditional Russian naming (and nicknaming) system, but everyone just had too many names. I kept getting lost and confused between the characters, because I just couldn't keep track of who was who. I'm glad there was a glossary and explanations at the end of the book, because that was immensely helpful, but I just wish everyone could stick to one name.
The female characters: Aside from Vasya, all the women in this book were wilting flowers who served no purpose other than popping out babies and crying over their husbands/fathers/brothers/male relatives. I understand that it's a significant aspect of the society at the time that this book was set in, but I just wish one of them could have had a role other than wife/sister/nun/baby-maker or at least a spine. Olga (Olya?) was somewhat better than the other women, but not really.


I have so many issues with this book due to my own loathing of misogynistic, patriarchal mores, but it was so beautifully written that I can't help but love it. Obviously, the social aspect is meant to portray the harsh realities that Vasya had to deal with, but it just bled into the other characters so much that I just wanted her to set fire to everything and go live in the forest with all the sprites and goblins (or whatever they are, I won't even try to rewrite or pronounce their names). HOWEVER, due to the fact that I adore Arden's writing style and the brutal beauty of her stories, I am inclined to give this book 4 stars, because it truly is a magical work of art. I have yet to come across a modern fairy-tale type book with the same level of historical accuracy and literary beauty as this, and for that, I would recommend this to any fellow lover of fairy-tales, retellings, or good old-fashioned fantasy. ( )
  thejoyceanbooknerd | Oct 19, 2018 |
The Girl in the Tower picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale left off, with Vasya choosing her own path in life, setting off to travel the world rather than be forced into marriage or a convent. Because it is too dangerous and suspicious to travel alone as a woman, Vasya disguises herself as a boy. Seeking adventure, Vasya eventually comes to the notice of the Grand Prince of Moscow after she battles a group of bandits that have been terrorizing the countryside. Thus she falls deeper into lies and deception as she works to hide her identity while acting to save Moscow from a threat only she can conquer.
Everything about this series draws you in, from the beautiful writing, to the atmospheric setting, to the realistic yet fantastical characters. I love how this series seamlessly blends Russian history with folktales and magic. Vasya and Morozko, the frost demon, are captivating characters, and I can't wait to see how their story unfolds in the next book in this series. ( )
  carlie892 | Oct 10, 2018 |
I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of this book early. I absolutely fell in love with the first book which had been on my to-read list forever. This book is just as amazing as the first one and left me longing for more of her world. This book takes up right where the first one left off and Vasilisa is immediately deep into the action when she saves three young girls from a raiders camp with the help of her trusty equine companion Solovey. She is reunited with her brother when she brings the children to the remote monastery where he is with a band of soldiers also looking for the raiders that have been burning villages in the area. Once her brother realizes the girls savior is his sister dressed as a man he has to perpetuate the lie of who she is in order to protect her from the scandal this would cause. Once they have returned to the capital things get complicated when she catches the eye of the man she believes is connected to the kidnapping and things quickly spiral out of control.
Her relationship with Morozko—Frost, the winter demon is not as prominent in this book but it's still a very vital link in the story that has not fully unfolded. ( )
  Verkruissen | Sep 27, 2018 |
A very original story based on Russian folklore, I enjoyed this novel which is a follow-up to the Bear and the Nightingale. This book is full of action, with bandits and horse races intermixed with magic that keeps the story interesting. It's also based in medieval Russia - a setting that doesn't get much play in historical fiction. Overall, this is a great read for historical fiction fans. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Sep 10, 2018 |
I love how Katherine Arden creates a magical fairy tale world out of the cold hard world of Russia under the rule of the Khan. It's a great read, I enjoyed it very much. ( )
  nittnut | Aug 31, 2018 |
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The storm haze shrouds the sky
Spinning snowy whirlwinds
Now it howls like a beast
Now cries like a child
Suddenly rustles the rotten thatch
On our run-down roof
Now like a late traveler
It knocks at our window. - A.S. Pushkin
To Dad and Beth with love and gratitude
First words
A girl rode a bay horse through a forest late at night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Book description
The magical adventure 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.
Haiku summary
Vasilisa, with
the winter wind in her hair,
travels to Moscow.

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"The magical adventure 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"--… (more)

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