Book Reviews

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winternight trilogy has been one of my consistent favorites. Beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale, all the way to The Girl in the Tower and now for The Winter of the Witch. It is a fabulous ending to this amazing trilogy.

Summary

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Review

(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Winter of the Witch was enchanting. Sure there were some scenes that were particularly brutal, but it had the same glittering snow covered landscape (even if the actual book takes place in Summer), wondrous magic, and Vasya’s endearing family. It is a book about family, sacrifice, and politics. While there’s whispers of magic, flaming horses, and mushroom spirits, Arden’s book ends with a real battle. The Winter of the Witch is a stunning conclusion to a fabulous series that emphasizes one girl’s sacrifices, desires, and actions to save the people, and country, she loves.

Vasya & Family

There are just so many things I love about the Winternight trilogy. Above all has to be Vasya and her indomitable spirit. I feel like every book she’s tested even more, strung even further, and challenged. And Arden doens’t disappoint. In this book, Vasya is broken down more than before, with death around her, and danger. I actually cried so many times in this book. Because this is really when Vasya has to build herself back up, to test her limits, and ask herself what she will do for her family, for Russia.

Vasya is the girl I could never be, but would secretly aspired to be. She is courageous, honest, intelligent, and tender. She has a fierce love for her family that only rivals her desire to do what is right for the people and country she loves. She’s infamous in the way that people either love her, or want to burn her as a witch. And so in this way, she reminds me a lot of many infamous and strong women – where they are both feared and respected. When we need their help, they’re unsung heroes, and when we don’t, we hunt them. And because for many Vasya embodies characteristics that are not ‘womanly’ for her. She is too powerful, too aware of her power and abilities, and she doesn’t want a husband. (and the ways Konstantin consistently blames Vasya for his own desire is like a whole nother topic I could go off about)

Power & Trauma

And in The Winter of the Witch both Vasya and her niece, recover from trauma. Partly from the last book, and from this new book. So these parts of the book just made my heart ache all over again. Basically the entire book was one prolonged heart ache and emotional experience. Vasya also struggles with the effects of power in this book. Power can corrupt us, can go to our head, and drive us to madness. So Vasya has to grapple with her new power, knowing when to stop, who not to ally with, and when we have to make sacrifices. (And in this way, many other characters also struggle with the balance of power in this book).

Politics and Rebellion

I love how the entire Winternight trilogy talks about the politics of Russia, during this time period, and the clash between the older traditional ways versus Christianity. I think that while we’ve been seeing elements of this grow in each book, the politics really comes to a crescendo in this book. So much that a significant portion of the book at the end is devoted entirely to the politics. Not only that, but finally many of our questions are answered in this book – can Christianity and the traditional ways co-exist? What is the future of Russia?

In this book, Vasya has to make some serious decisions about the world she wants to help foster. What side does she fight on? She becomes a force of her own, a leader in her own way, and her new role allows her to influence the world of Russia even more so. I also really liked the constant presence of her family in The Winter of the Witch. They surface in unexpected ways and definitely different than in The Girl in the Tower.

Overall,

Old foes return, and new ones emerge from the shadows. The Winter of the Witch is a book that will pull at all your heart strings. There is interplay between stories, legends, and history. And at the heart of The Winter of the Witch is a heroine who is feared, but also necessary. A girl driven by love of her family and her country, who is willing to sacrifice to keep them all safe. Even more magic than ever before is present in The Winter of the Witch where people have to pick sides and Russia hangs in the balance.

Find The Winter of the Witch on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.

Discussion

What series are you looking forward to finishing?

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