“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you,” she said at last fiercely. “But my life is not your game.”
The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books so of course, I was beyond excited to reread The Girl in the Tower. If Bear and the Nightingale is a breathtaking fairy tale, than The Girl in the Tower is an epic adventure.
The Girl in the Tower picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale ended. Vasya needs to make a choice: go to the convent or marry. But for Vasya, she chooses a third option: travel the world with Solovey. But it’s hard to travel as an unmarried female, so Vasya travels disguised as a boy. Although Vasya enjoys the freedom, she is still grieving the loss of her father. It is hard to travel alone and soon Vasya runs into people who need her help. Unable to do anything but help others in need, Vasya is once again put back into society.
Vasya then crosses paths with her older brother Sasha, who had become a monk and her sister Olga, who has married a prince and has a family of her own. Meeting her siblings unexpectedly forces Vasya to keep up the disguise of being a boy. This creates some tension for Vasya and her older siblings who have also not seen her in over 10 years.
Most of this story takes place in Moscow and it is very much different from the life Vasya is used to in the wilderness of Northern Russia. The kind creatures she has been so used to are powerless in the more modern world of Moscow. Vaysa has yet to find out what her disguise means for her siblings and their lives in Moscow. Betrayal is coming and Vasya will soon discover the city is not at all as it seems.
“I did not know I was lonely, she thought, until I was no longer alone.”
Once again I found myself really connected to the story because of three things: the characters arcs, the setting and the overall themes of the story.
This series has some of the best characters, I’ve ever read. While Bear and the Nightingale had Vasya growing physically, Girl in the Tower has Vasya growing emotionally. I think her growth as a character really shined in this sequel. We see Vasya struggle with her loneliness, her family and a new city. She discovers her lies and half-truths have real consequences to her, her family and for Moscow.
But it’s not just Vasya, Katherine Arden is able to create a beautiful world filled with some of the most interesting characters. Not a single character is wasted in terms of development. We get more frost demon, Morozko!! With his much bigger role, Morozko was able to give us great balance to Vasya’s wildfire spirit. We learn more about him and his motives for always coming to Vasya’s aid.
“Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen.”
It’s been two months since I read this last, and I already want to read it again. The setting for this sequel has changed a little, with us being in Moscow. But it’s still just as atmospheric. You feel how old and new Moscow is to Vasya. Rich and descriptive, you will think you are actually transported into the world Katherine Arden has created.
“Do you think that is all I want, in all my life— a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me”
The Themes!!! Vasya is the biggest feminist, ahead of her time. She has never tried to follow social norms and her clear want for freedom is so prevalent in Girl in the Tower. This whole series is about a girl who refuses to conform to gender roles and just wants to travel. I mean what an icon. She knew traveling would be hard for a women, so she disguises herself as a boy. She risked her life to save other girls who had been kidnapped. Vasilisa Petrovna’s entire character is wrapped around this theme of gender roles and social norms. It’s what makes her a great protagonist. She’s independent, strong-willed. She’s not afraid to fail and she does fail a lot in this book. She knows the risks of being unwed, but it’s worth it to her to find her own happiness.
“A woman married. Or she became a nun. Or she died. That was what being a women meant. What then, was she?”
Her step-mother acted as a foil for Vasya’s attitude towards magic and tradition. But in this sequel, it’s her sister who acts as the foil. The opposites of having a family vs wanting to be free. While Olga misses some of her freedoms, she does understand her sense of duty to her family and her role as a woman. Whereas, Vasya clearly wants to be free of the burdens of being married. I absolutely love the way Arden uniquely, creates tension between the sisters centered on this plot device. Honestly, I could talk about Vasya until I’m blue in the face.
This series, this book, these characters mean everything to me. If there’s one series I wish I could reread over again for the first time, it’s this one. Do yourself some self-care and pick up this book. Come fall in love with a frost demon, a talking horse, and a girl who just wants freedom.