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BOOK REVIEW: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight #2) by Katherine Arden

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight #2) by Katherine ArdenThe Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

You cannot love and be immortal.

First, let me say that I found MUCH enjoyment out of this series. There were some definite highs and lows-more on that later-but this book, mostly, brought me immense joy. After the first, I truly didn’t think this series was redeemable-and, in a way, it isn’t. It’s perhaps my fault that I can’t stomach babies dying (I mean, WTF?) and horses being burned alive (whether on a broader scope of attack and war, or not), but I’m sorry: These things will never be okay with me. But, besides those two transgressions, ie extreme triggers for me, this book was by far the strongest of the three (I’ve finished the third in ARC form).

Morozko remains the high point of this series, followed shortly by my baby horse, Solovey. They added heat when the book was growing cold, and humor when things got too dark. And, as anyone who has read this series knows, apparently horses can communicate with certain people? And, can I just say, they are snarky little turds and I was totally here for it.

But, back to Morozko. This book just…it catapulted a character I was already fond of into obsession mode. He was witty. Sharp. Dark. Protective. Seductive. And, I dare say, a bit tortured? I was absolutely head over heels for this very anti-hero, and he is Vasya’s perfect match.

The mare stood quietly, chewing at her hay. Morozko was staring into the fire and did not turn his head when she rose. Vasya thought of the long featureless years of his life, wondered how many nights he sat alone by a fire, or if he wandered the wild instead and made his dwelling seem to have a roof and walls and a fire only to please her.

THAT BEING SAID. Vasya irritated me many times-especially the end. This one part totally made me rage, and I find it wholly unforgivable. It was sick. It was weird. And I want NO FING PART OF IT. If not for this one part, this book would be an absolutely unforgettable favorite-and now, it’s honestly memorable (in some good ways, yes, OBVIOUSLY-it was by far my favorite of the series!) for all the wrong reasons, if I’m being honest.

But as though her words were a summoning, a door among the firs—a door she hadn’t seen—opened with the crack of breaking ice. A swath of firelight bloodied the virgin snow. Now, quite plainly, a house stood in this fir-grove. Long, curling eaves capped its wooden walls, and in the snow-torn firelight, the house seemed to lie breathing, crouched in the thicket.

This story is full of so much passion. Heart. Explosive action-it was honestly an amazing book that had me swooning so hard I scarcely found it easy to breathe-but that does NOT mean I forgive it’s transgressions-no matter how beautiful the covers are.

BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine Arden

BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine ArdenThe Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1)
by Katherine Arden
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

“Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale.”

I think it’s fairly safe to say that I trust my older friends and those that know me well to guide me in this world of one billion books, but that doesn’t mean everything always fits. Example: This book. I have seen so many reviewers say how strongly they love this and I have remained interested since I first saw this hauntingly beautiful cover. I started it months ago, loved the first few lines, but knew it was a book better suited for a totally different mood.

“I had to,” Vasya rejoined. Blackness darted suddenly before her eyes. Her brief flare of strength was fading fast. “They were going to send me to a convent. I decided I would rather freeze in a snowbank.” Her skin shivered all over. “Well, that was before I began to freeze in a snowbank. It hurts.”
“Yes,” said Morozko. “Yes, it does.”

Fast forward to this week and I just got a feeling this was THE book I needed right now. I am still in my Diviners funk, or at least I was when I started this novel, and needed something to snap me right out of it. Snap it did, for I have been able to move on! I just wish I’d have loved this one more.

Vasya rose in silence, letting her blanket fall. The cold air sank fangs into her flesh. She crept to the stable door. There was no moon, and fat clouds smothered the stars. The snow was still falling.

It had all the makings of books I adore: Beautiful story-telling, amazing prose, and an anti-hero (or is he a hero? I don’t know) that was wonderful to love. I fell so hard for the beginning-how beautiful. Really. I will likely never forget that first line that struck a chord with me, both when I started it months ago and this week when I read it. Sometimes a book just fits your mood.

“If God gives me strength, I will save you.”
“I am only a country girl,” said Vasya. She reached again into the blackberry bush, wary of thorns. “I have never seen Tsargrad, or angels, or heard the voice of God. But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.”

But then a certain character, or TWO, brought religion into the mix-heavily-and it strongly disjointed the bridge between the fantastic beginning I so loved and adored, and the end that somewhat redeemed the novel for me. But, frankly, nothing can erase the horrors we had to go though to get to what I longed for in the story. I don’t like animal massacre, I don’t like children dying, I don’t like putting myself in the place of the mothers wailing and begging, and I don’t like righteous religion sprinkled throughout, even if our main characters aren’t a part of it.

It was just too much, for me, and I didn’t want to deal with it. And to have to wait for the Frost Demon to make a large appearance until the end? It was all just too much-it’s as simple as that. Call me transparent. Call me shallow. Call me what you will-it doesn’t make me love this book…nor will it keep me from reading the second.

That may seem silly to some-if there wasn’t enough to love about the first to move on, then why move on? Well, that’s just it-There was enough…just enough. Like that beginning. Like the gorgeous atmosphere that painted a picture before my eyes and made me long to be there, breathing in the crisp snow and bundling up by the fire. It wasn’t all bad. There’s more than even The Frost Demon. I liked this author’s story-telling. Why else would I have finished, even when I felt bad most of the time?

So, would I say this was a slam-dunk? A home-run? It didn’t knock it out of the park, but I have it on good authority that there’s more to the story and I need to stick it out-that I’ll even want the hardbacks, in the end. So I forge on, just hoping that I don’t have to be miserable to get through this next story.

OH! And I think it’s worth mentioning that this book is actually kind of scary, at times. Atmospheric, yes, but creepy-like I was there. I didn’t expect that, because no one told me nor did I ever see it in a review. I think it’s worth saying, because there are a lot of people like me who don’t know that before going in. And I understand Russian folklore is darker…but I suppose I didn’t know just how dark. Just a warning.

********

Yeahhhhhhh…. this face about sums up the summary of my reading experience. My feelings about this book are vast-for I LOVED the beginning, hated the middle, and I have no clue what to say about the end other than we finally got more Frost Demon (yes please) and I love him to pieces.

Child deaths. Mothers wailing and frantically grasping for their children not to be taken away and buried. Mutilated animals. Anddddd apparently it’s creepy as well??? Dead bodies coming to life and scratching on the door? Sharp teeth, black eyes, and dripping black blood from the mouth? WTF.

SO. To sum up: Chelsea hated the trigger-happiness of this novel. Chelsea did not like the turn of events from atmospheric, wonderful, and intriguing to dark, deadly, and religious. Chelsea loved the Frost Demon. Chelsea heard TFD is well worth it if you continue on and this plague of a book leads into something far greater. Chelsea will read book two. For The Frost Demon, that is.

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