1.) The Bear and the Nightingale ★★★★★
“She was the wind, the clouds gathering in the smoky sky, the thick snow of deep winter. She was nothing. She was everything.”
Haunting. Dark. Lyrical. Magical. The Girl in the Tower contains everything I loved about The Bear and the Nightingale while allowing the characters to grow, the world to expand, and the story to deepen.
Picking up shortly after the events of The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya is left with two options: join a convent or marry. Either choice leaves her confined within physical walls and the inescapable walls of her society. And so, Vasya chooses not to decide, disguising herself as a boy to live a life on the road as a traveler.
“Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.”
I simply don’t have the words to describe how much I adore this book and this series. Katherine Arden uses beautiful language and draws from both historical and fantastical Russia to create a haunting story of bravery, fear, family, the roles of women in society, and what it means to challenge those roles.
My love for Vasya only grew in this story as she tried to carve her own path every time those around her tried to place her in a metaphorical and physical tower. While she still has her reckless spirit and courage that I adored in The Bear and the Nightingale, loss, age, and understanding have made her wiser. What I love most about Vasya isn’t that she is fearless— it is that she is courageous and strong even when she is scared; it is that we see her bravery falter and then watch her stand taller. Vasya has become my favorite female character of all time, and she is the kind of protagonist I want young readers to look up to.
“That love of maidens for monsters, that does not fade with time.”
Of course, I could not finish this review without talking of Morozko—the frost demon and the winter king who has my heart. I didn’t think it was possible, but I love him even more in this book than I did in the first as we begin to truly understand him and his position. Without giving anything away, I’ll say this: Morozko broke my heart and brought me to tears in a way that a fictional character has not done in a long time, if ever.
“You cannot love and be immortal.”
If you loved The Bear and the Nightingale, then you’ll love The Girl in the Tower perhaps even more. It maintains all of its strengths from the first book, particularly the atmosphere, while adding new layers to these beloved characters and introducing a new storyline where the stakes are raised.
“Think of me sometimes,’ he returned. ‘When the snowdrops have bloomed and the snow has melted.’”