The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

Title: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3)

Author: Katherine Arden

Rating: ★★★★★ (all the stars)

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

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  1. The Bear and the Nightingale– ★★★★★
  2. The Girl in the Tower– ★★★★★

Many years ago, Baby girl Smith was born… me! I wouldn’t meet my parents for another month, but today is my birthday! And since we are just beginning winter I thought today would be a perfect day to release my review for not only my favorite book of 2019 but also the perfect winter read.

“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.”

I probably talk about this trilogy at least 3 times a week, so everyone knows about my deep devotion to the first two books. So of course, the last book in this trilogy has been at the top of the most anticipated reads of 2019. I was fortunate enough to finally meet Katherine Arden this year at NYCC and man did I cry. I walked out of NYCC practically cradling The Winter of the Witch.

The Winter of the Witch picks up right at the end of Girl in the Tower and the action is there. Not going to lie, I was stressed at some points. The stakes have never been higher for Vasya and we see that in this fast-paced plot. From the very first moment, you are captured by the story of it all. I said Bear and the Nightingale is a breathtaking fairy tale and Girl in the Tower is an epic adventure, but Winter of the Witch is both. All those easter eggs you were given in the first two books come together in the most creative and imaginative ways. We see where Katherine Arden wanted to take us; a wonderful journey filled with the most fantastical of characters.

“What use am I? None. I have made more mistakes than I can count, and the world has no place for me. And yet, as I said before, I am still not going to die to please you.”

Katherine Arden character development is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read. Vasya is no longer the little girl who stole honeycakes from her nursemaid. Instead, she is this amazingly strong woman who has defied all expectations people had for her. Brilliantly flawed, Arden gives Vasya more character development in just a short time. I say it every day, but Vasya is my all time favorite female character. But it’s not just the main characters brilliantly written in this book. Even the most minor characters show a depth that expertly adds to this folkloric story.

Just like the previous two we are introduced to more fairy tales. This installment adds many whimsical elements that are sure to entice any reader. Midnight roads, quirky characters and legends of old add an extra level of fairytale to this story that reminded me of Bear and the Nightingale.

Friends, I WAS NOT ready for the range of emotions Arden would deliver. I cried, no, BAWLED my eyes out. I felt knocked down multiple times but slowly was put back together by Arden’s story-telling. This book is sure to give you feelings. And that scene…… I…. just.. *cries*

This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. I could read 100 more books about each character. BUT this is the perfect ending to a beautiful story. The characters, the setting, the story all feel completed by the end.

Winter of the Witch really cemented my love for this Trilogy. You may see me hugging these books around town. This is my favorite series of all time. If you ever want my recommendation it is The Winternight Trilogy.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Thank you to Del Rey for this arc 🙂

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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“Will you tell her? asked the mare. “Everything?” the demon said. “Of bears and sorcerers, spells made of sapphire and a witch that lost her daughter? No, of course not. I shall tell her as little as possible. And hope that it is enough.” 

I have loved many books in my life. I’ve loved books that tell of fantasy, friendship, and adventure, but I have never loved a book liked I love The Bear and the Nightingale. One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, it reached deep into my soul fall truly in love with this book. Bear and the Nightingale is on the list of books I wish I could reread over for the first time. I could talk all day about how beautiful this book is to me.

Where does one begin describing their favorite book? This book is magical. The writing is lyrical, it is everything I could ever want in a book. This book is truly a centuries-old fairytale. Russian fairy tales are intertwined to make for a brand new fairytale. A story about family dynamics, gender roles in society, and faith vs tradition are wrapped up in beautiful prose.

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

The Bear and the Nightingale tells the story of a girl named Vasya and her bravery in keeping her family safe from horrors that seem to be right out of the stories her nursemaid would tell her. Vasya has the special ability to talk with some of the magical creatures from her nursemaid, Dunya, stories. She befriends these creatures and in turn, they befriend her and teach Vasya the secrets of the magical world.

Vasya’s wild and care-free nature is strained when her father takes a new bride who also can see the creatures. While both Vasya and Anna can both see the creatures, Anna considers them to be demons and treats Vasya cruelly for acknowledging them.

“It is a cruel task, to frighten people in God’s name.”

Then an arrogant priest is sent to the village dreaming of a higher calling.  But after talking to Anna about the old ways of honoring the magical creatures, he decides he is the village’s salvation. Fearing demons are everywhere, the priest uses fear and intimidation in the village. Frightened for their souls, the village slowly follows the priest’s crooked ways and turn away from past tradition.

With the priest and Anna’s own cruelty, Vasya finds herself even more of an outcast. But a frost-demon has taken an interest in her wild heart. He tells her stories of the old ways and of his wicked brother. Thus begins the tale of a girl, a frost-demon, a bear and the nightingale.

“Solovey will take me to the ends of the earth if I ask it. I am going into the world, Alyosha. I will be no one’s bride, neither of man nor of God. I am going to Kiev and Sarai and Tsargrad, and I will look upon the sun on the sea.”

I love many things about The Bear and the Nightingale, but a few things really connected me to the story: the character arcs, the setting, and the deeper themes of the story.

Vasya is probably one of my favorite female characters of all time. She is a very strong-willed, compassionate, care-free protagonist and it’s easy to fall in love with her. We get to see Vasya grow from a child loved by her family for her antics to a young girl who is desperate to stay free. Her need for independence is probably the compelling part of this book.

“Wild birds die in cages.”

The antagonists of this story are very complex because while the main villain is the Bear, the villains in Vasya’s immediate life are her stepmother and the foreign priest.  The stepmother is a perfect foil for Vasya because she can also see the magical creatures but to her, these creatures are not friends but demons who need to be purged. She takes her anger out on Vasya and her cruelty towards her stepdaughter was really the true villain to Vasya’s life. I even consider the priest a villain in the way he strokes animosity and anger toward Vasya. His hatred for her masks underlining feelings he can’t define towards her. Instead of confronting his own arrogance, he blames all of his problems and the problems in the village on Vasya.

Katherine Arden has absolutely stunning writing. I keep forgetting this is a debut because the visuals the reader can get is astounding. You really feel a part of the story. 

The setting for this book has everything:

*wintery setting

*magical forest

*demons

* Characters who are good, bad and somewhere in-between

*mythology and folklore

If you’re looking for a great wintery read or dark fantasy with great themes, and even better character arcs, The Bear and the Nightingale is for you. The audiobook is also beautiful because you actually feel like you are listening to one of Dunya’s stories.

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Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Did you ever watch the Legend of Korra? If the answer is yes, then we should probably be best friends. If the answer is no, you should watch it so we can then be best friends. One of my favorite quotes from that entire show is “When we reach our lowest point, we are opened to the greatest change.” What am I talking about Legend of Korra in an Heir of Fire review? Because that quote perfectly encapsulates my feelings on why Heir of Fire is my favorite novel in the Throne of Glass series.

 Fireheart – why do you cry? “Because I am lost,” she whispered onto the earth. “And I do not know the way.”

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The Throne of Glass series has always been Aelin Ashryver Galathynius’ story. Heir of Fire is special because this is the story of Celaena’s lowest point. We finally get to fully see broken Celaena. Up until this point, Celaena has been a strong, badass woman who sasses the hell out of everyone. But after the ending of Crown of Midnight, we are left with a Celaena who is still grieving the loss of her dear friend, Nehemia. Heir of Fire is a different type of a strong, badass woman; we see a woman who is grieving.

“Because she is dead!” She screamed the last word so loudly it burned in her throat. “Because she is dead, and I am left with my worthless life!”

Celaena is grieving the loss of her friend, her lost love, and the past she tries so desperately to hide. For a good chunk of Heir of Fire, Celaena is in such a state of self-loathing and guilt. It’s heartbreaking to see a character so down, but it helped me really connect with Celaena as a character. Seeing her struggles, I was able to relate way more to Celaena than I did before. She hits rock bottom, but she builds herself back up to becoming Aelin. And that’s why she’s such a strong character. Because even when she hit rock bottom, Aelin found a way to come out on top, and be a stronger person for it.

But where there is darkness there is also light. And SJM does a wonderful job of truly giving Celaena the best character development. Celaena is finally confronted with her past and she’s a better person for it. She chose the future instead of looking at the past. And she finally is beginning to lean on others for help.

I could talk for 100 years about the Heir of Fire being the best character development for Celaena, but there are other people who really make me love this book too soooo…….

“Their hands clasped between them, he whispered into her ear, “I claim you, too, Aelin Galathynius.”

ROWAN…. My fae prince. I absolutely love that grumpy old man. Seriously, one of my favorite book boyfriends. I love me some rough around the edges-broken men, hide their heart of gold under a thick skin of asshole. He fits right in.  Rowan was just as broken as Celaena but in his own way, and they learned to be better together. They became good friends who were able to lean on each other for strength.

 

MANON…. Finally some witches. This was such a great addition to this story. I loved how she was death incarnate but her wyvern loved to roll around in wildflowers. I think Abraxos was really the start of her slowly becoming less ruthless. Asterin is also fantastic and Book 4 is where she really shines.

 

CHAOL….. Unpopular opinion, I’m not a fan of Chaol. I never really was until like the very end of Queen of Shadows. I don’t know he just isn’t my cup of tea. But I did like seeing him be unsure of everything. He made a bunch of mistakes and he’s learning from them. He doesn’t know who to trust. But he’ll get there, he’s just going through some stuff.

 

“You cannot pick and choose what parts of her to love.”

DORIAN….. I loved how Dorian had the most character growth after Celaena in Heir of Fire. He really has the worst luck, but he’s always willing to be a good person. I love Dorian staying true to himself. But man this guy cannot catch a break.

 

This is an emotional rollercoaster, but if you stick with it the end of this book is simply amazing. We are finally getting to the true plot of the series and how it all fits together. I could talk about this forever, but don’t want to give too much away!

“She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.” 

✮✮✮✮

 

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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“The only rule that counted was to not get caught.”

I FREAKING LOVE THE LAST MAGICIAN, AND THIS COVER WITH ALL MY HEART!! The plot is well done, the characters are flawed and wonderful to read, great world building. The Last Magician is a fast-paced book that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Told from 3 POV: the main character, Esta, Dolph Saunders- the gang leader, and Harte Darrigan- magician.

The Last Magician follows Esta’s journey into 1900 New York City, to steal a book that could save all the Mageus from extinction. Surrounding Manhattan is the Brink, a magical barrier trapping all Mageus in the city. Any Mageus trying to leave risks losing their magic and usually their life.

What I enjoyed most was the magic system and how magic ruled the 1900s in NYC. Persons with magic are Mageus hunted for years by the Order, a secret society trying to eradicate raw magic while also seeking power from ritual magic. Each Mageus’s powers were very different. This talent wasn’t like power over an element or extra strength, stuff like that. No, these powers were so unique and special to each person. This unique world building was one of my favorite parts to read. The 1900s were run by gangs as well as the Order, and you really got a  sense of what life was like in Manhattan at the time.

My girl Esta was just an unbelievable character. Her magic was something I had never heard of before, the ability to slow down time. Yes, she could time travel, but only with the help of magical artifacts and even then it was a difficult thing to do. Esta was smart, strong, and a great thief. She could pickpocket almost anyone.

It was thrilling to read about her time in the 1900s. Women were a little more submissive and Maxwell does a great job of showing Esta’s integration into the past. Esta was still a witty, fierce character who was able to distinguish herself as someone who could be trusted while also stabbing you in the back.

“But then, liars do make the best magicians, and he happened to be exceptional.”

Man, do I wish Harte Darrigan was real, sigh. I will be fangirling over Harte for years to come. I’m never a fan of inst-love, I think it’s just too much for me. But The Last Magician takes slow burn romance to another level. Two sides of the same coin, Harte was a brilliant foil for Esta. A magician on stage and a Mageus of persuasion, Harte was able to lie his true intentions to pretty much every character. His deception POV was insane and I loved any minute of it.

“They were sitting on opposite sides of the board, playing each other in hopes of gaining the prize.”

The Last Magician is a great story about deception and is deceiving someone really bad if it’s for a good cause. If you’re a fan of morally ambiguous characters, time travel, gangs, magic, and twists and turns, The Last Magician is right for you. I definitely recommend this to fans of The Six of Crows, and Ace of Shades.

     

★★★★★

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