Name: The Girl in the Tower
Author: Katherine Arden
Number of Pages: 346 (Paperback)
Published: June 26th 2018 by Del Rey
Genre: Fantasy, Historical
For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic…
The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.
Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…
I loved every moment of this tale of bravery, adventure, escape, mystery and scheming. Driven from her home following events of the first novel and rumours that she is a witch, we meet up once again with Vasya as she tries to make a new life in which she can be free. Disguising herself as a boy, Vasya heads out into the icy wilderness of the world, where all is not well as villages are being burned and people taken from their homes.
At the heart of this tale is Vasya. Brave Vasya, who refuses marriage, refuses the convent, stands against a frost-demon and insists she wants to see the world. She’s lost so much and yet she’s not broken. She wants to fight, to make a difference, and to help where she can, going into dangerous situations with her faithful stallion Solovey at her side.
How can one of my favourite interactions in a book still be between a spirited young woman and a talking, magical bay stallion? I can’t believe I’m even writing that, but it’s true. Solovey is such a character in his own right, and his loyalty to Vasya, and his observations and asides are just great.
The relentlessness and harshness of bitter frost, snow, and wind during winter in the forest was so vivid. Yes, it helped a little that the day I started reading this it started snowing, but this book is all atmosphere without the added weather effects in the real world.
And I have to mention Morozko and Vasya. I love the pair of them, separately and together – the whole ‘will they, won’t they, how can they fall in love when he’s an immortal frost-demon?’, and what exactly isn’t he telling her about the sapphire necklace and witches and horses by the sea? See, all these vague little suggestions just add to the mystery.
It’s utterly enchanting. He’s always there, making sure she’s okay as she ploughs forth into battles that should certainly be beyond her. As Vasya herself admits at one point, girls don’t handle weapons, and yet she’ll face down bandits and fight beside princes.
There are family reunions, political intrigue, plots, schemes, new monstrous villains and so much more to this great story. I’m so glad that I already have The winter of the Witch on request from the library, because I don’t want to leave this richly-created world and these fascinating characters behind just yet.