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

Winter1The Winter of the Witch brings to a conclusion Katherine Arden’s stunning Winternight trilogy.  The complete series is positively a tour de force and a love letter to Russia from the author, who clearly writes from her heart and with a strong foundation of knowledge.  I will start out by saying this is not a book to read as a standalone.  I can’t conceive anybody wishing to jump in at this point as there is such a wealth of story building that would be missed as a result. Also, if you haven’t read the previous books this review may contain spoilers.

As with all the best trilogies, for me, this is a story of three different parts brought together with beautiful writing and wonderful creativity.  We start with the hook, the first story – The Bear and the Nightingale.  Immersed in wonderful folklore, glorious with detail that positively makes the characters and place jump off the page and also brings to us the strange and compelling relationship between a young woman, out of sync with the time in which she’s been born, and a frost demon.  The second story, The Girl in the Tower, is jam packed with dramatic adventure, risks and reveals and culminates in a dramatic and fiery ending.  The third book picks up immediately where the second left off.  Moscow is reeling from fire and death and Vasya is the target for the fear and hate being whipped up into a frenzy by a religious fanatic.  On top of this a further threat looms in the shape of a gathering army approaching Moscow.

This book brings to us all the characters that we’ve come to love (and not love).  Vasya comes into her own, she finds out about her family and her abilities and discovers much more about the fantastical and unseen world in which she lives.  Her sister Olga and her brother Sasha both play roles and Morozko, after commiting a huge sacrifice also plays a further role as the relationship between himself and Vasya takes real form.  More than all of that is the creatures that take part in the story, not just the chyerti and the domovoi, but also Baba Yaga, her servant the mistress of midnight, legendary horses and the undead, the upyr.  The final character, who really plays a huge role here is Morozko’s twin brother – the Bear of chaos.  This is a fascinating character, he creates fear and panic wherever he treads.  There are more characters of course but I’m not going to try to name them all here.

In terms of the setting.  The whole book has a much darker feel this time round.  We start off with Moscow, deep in the throes of chaos itself after the damaging fires from Book 2.  People are half crazy with the desire for revenge and the tension is so thick you can almost taste it.  Couple this with the very real threat of war, the need to gather armies and the ever present sense of the clock ticking and time marching onwards and it really is enough to create a crazy place.  We spend a good deal of time in ‘Midnight’- a place which feels particularly fae where time almost stands still and travelling many leagues with ease can be achieved easily.  It’s also an easy place to become lost and definitely a place of tricks and lies.

In terms of criticisms, well, not really a criticism but there is plenty going on here and sometimes there really is a palpable sense of chaos – which is quite fitting when you consider the Bear – but, at the same time some of the threads almost become tangled at points.  I felt almost that there was such a lot taking place that it became a bit overwhelming.  Personally, I think that this is deliberate on the part of the author and in terms of reading with your heart in your throat it undoubtedly works.

As I mentioned above this book has a much darker feel.  Loss, bloodshed, betrayal, mistrust, torture and struggles and death are rife – which you might expect at such a hectic time.  Not only are the humans fighting amongst themselves but the creatures are also torn, they’re desperate to remain in a world that is increasingly forgetting their presence and they don’t know who to pin their hopes upon.  Here is a strange young woman, a woman who sees them, who challenges conventionality and isn’t afraid to stand up for the downtrodden.  She makes mistakes and sometimes she needs help but, at the end of the day, when what she really desires is to be swept off her feet and taken away from all the troubles she instead strides forth and champions the underdogs.

If you were to ask me which book is my favourite I think it would change by the week depending on my mood. All three instalments have a different feel and there are different elements that I love about each.  What I can safely say is that this is one of the best trilogies I’ve read for a long time and Katherine Arden is an author that I will watch with eager interest. I have that bittersweet feeling of having reached the finish line of something wonderful and the glow that comes along with it but at the same time that slightly gut wrenching feeling of simply not wanting it all to end.  Ah well.  That’s the way it crumbles.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


22 Responses to “The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    “one of the best trilogies I’ve read” is indeed a wonderful endorsement, and one I will keep in mind once I manage to read this series that has been on my radar for quite some time, thanks to all the enthusiastic reviews – especially yours – that I’v read 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a series that ends well – there’s always a little bit of worry picking up the last in a series but this is a very good series.
      Lynn 😀

  2. waytoofantasy

    Skipping most of your review since I still need to finish this series, but hope you enjoyed this! I’ve heard great things.

  3. Vicky

    Amazing, looking forward to reading this!! And judging by your review it’s going to be a good one… great post!

  4. sjhigbee

    A fabulous review – and it’s strengthened my resolve to get hold of this series, especially as I recall you recommending the first book!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ah yes, the first book – I’m almost envious of people reading it for the first time. A very good series.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Tammy

    Lovely review! I’m going to plan on a binge read this year, I need to find out for myself why everyone loves this series😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you get a chance to pick it up I think it’s an excellent series.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I feel the same way about the “chaos” you described, and the fact that this book had a lot of “dreamlike” sequences, this was probably not my favorite of the three, but I agree it was still a solid conclusion to a brilliant trilogy.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I really enjoyed it but at the same time I recognise that I had moments where I was a bit bemused – and I don’t really know why. I do think it’s a great conclusion but also it seems incredibly ambitious with so much chaos taking place that I think it just blew my mind a little bit. Still, a great series.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Carmen

    Wonderful review, Lynn! I liked that you tied this review with snippets of what came before to bring it all together. I have the first installment of this trilogy on my TBR. I will read it at some point.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you love it when you find time to give it a go. I love the combination of history and folklore/superstition/religious and political war and love.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Amanda @Cover2CoverMom

    I cannot wait to read this one and this review got me even more excited! I am currently #1 in line at the library, but just waiting for them to receive their copies. I am dying with anticipation!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ooh, I hope you love it – I think for me this series has been one of my favourites – it’s up there with Tolkien for the complete series taken as a whole – so consistently good.
      Lynn 😀

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