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 Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden


“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you,” she said at last fiercely. “But my life is not your game.”

Title: The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2)

Author: Katherine Arden

Rating: ★★★★★

Publication Date: December 5, 2017

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  1. The Bear and the Nightingale  ★★★★★

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.

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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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