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.

 

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Waiting on Wednesday : The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden.  I want this book in my life so much.  

winter of thewitchIn the stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, following The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya returns to save Russia and the spirit realm, battling enemies both mortal and magic.

Expected publication : August 2018

 

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

girlintheThe Girl in the Tower is the second book in the Winternight series by Katherine Arden.  Last year I was spellbound when I saw the cover to the Bear and the Nightingale and read the synopsis.  I had to have that book in my life.  I don’t know, perhaps I was mesmerised, but after reading it the book proved to be even better than my expectations.  I loved The Bear and the Nightingale.  Imagine how happy I was when I found out that it was the first in a trilogy.  I have since been like a cat on a hot tin roof waiting to read The Girl in the Tower.

Firstly, the cover again held me in it’s thrall, I was trapped in the headlights and unable to move, but I did have a nagging doubt.  I loved book one, how could this possibly compete?  Fear not, like Vasilisa (Vasya), there is more to Ms Arden than meets the eye.  She’s clearly some sort of story sprite, which would explain why she writes of such creatures with deceptively easy charm.  She has written a second book that is not only delightfully enchanting, brimming with atmosphere and evocative in it’s descriptions but she has superseded the first book.  How is it possible?  Well, for my mind this is an author who knows her topic, her knowledge is apparent in her writing but more than that her love for what she writes shines through.

I realise I’m gushing but I literally can’t help it.  With this series I have that feeling of coming home.  The feeling you get when a book is so good that it talks to you and makes you feel as though the author not only knows you inside and out but has written this book with you in mind.  Silly, I know, but there it is.  Pick up this series and prepare to fall in love with the characters, the place and the folklore.

The story picks up virtually where book one left off.  (Side note – be wary of spoilers in this review if you haven’t yet read the first book – and by the way, if that’s the case – why not?  Get thee to a book shop and pick up The Bear and the Nightingale, read it, then come back and talk to me.  Please).  So, Vasya has ran away from her childhood village, the villagers believe she is a witch and with her father dead she no longer enjoys his protection from their superstitious anger.  Retreating to the forest in the bitter cold isn’t the easiest route, neither is deciding to try and see something of the world as a single young female in a time when women’s’ expectations were marry and have a family or go to a convent.  Neither of these options appeal, or indeed suit Vasya.  It isn’t a judgement call, everyone is different and Vasya wants something more.  She’s a woman who was born in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She’s a restless spirit and stubborn to boot.  So, with safety and anonymity in mind, Vasya dresses as a boy.  Now, there’s much more to the story than Vasya surviving in the wild.  The bigger story begins with the plundering and destruction of many of the outlying rural villages and the abduction of children.  This comes to the attention of the Grand Prince who eventually rides out to try and tackle the bandits head on.  Vasya becomes embroiled in this thread which eventually sees her return to Moscow as a hero.  She’s still masquerading as a boy – but how long can her luck hold out?  She has now gained the attention of more than the Winter King and she walks on a tightrope of deception that threatens daily to give way beneath her.

What I loved about this book.  Everything basically.  The characters, the sense of anticipation that turns to that terrible choking feeling of dread, the cold of the forest, the whimsy and fairytale aspects, the darkness, the politics of city life and in particular being at the whim of a Grand Prince, the mysterious Frost Demon, the descriptions of the way of life and the Domovoi and Bannik’s that act as guardians of the homes and baths. Just everything.

To the characters.  Vasya is an amazing character to read about.  She’s stubborn and headstrong.  She doesn’t always make the best decisions.  She won’t ask for help.  But, she’s loving, she loves her family, she’s brave and curious and has a determination streak a mile wide.  I loved her story in this book.  The dressing as a boy and the sense of freedom she enjoyed.  It’s captivating to read about – especially her time in the forest.

Then we have Vasya’s stallion Solovey.  I defy you not to love this horse.  Just try.  Or don’t – because it’s not possible so why waste time and effort.

We have a return to the story of two of Vasya’s siblings – Olga, her sister and now Princess with her own children and Sasha, her doting brother who left to become a monk.  Vasya finds that she has a niece who is very similar, not only in temperament but in the way she ‘sees’ spirits and this also plays a role as the story unfolds.

Konstantin also makes a return to the story.  He’s still obsessive in terms of both Vasya and his religion and neither help to make him into either a stable or likable character.

And, of course we have Morozko.  Still an enigma, although we learn a little more of him in this instalment.  Wow, what can I say.  I’m a little bit in love which I realise is ridiculous.  But I am.  Don’t judge me – just read the book and you’ll be a little bit in love too I think.  There is an underlying love theme going on here – but it’s very subtle and has the feeling of dabbling with unknown quantities that are dangerous and exciting at the same time.

The pace is much faster in this story than in the first, there’s more action and heart stopping drama, there are ghosts and other entities and this definitely tends towards a slightly darker streak than the first book.

Did I have any criticisms?  No.  I guess on balance I preferred Vasya’s time in the forest to her time in Moscow but I think that’s simply because even though she was more often than not cold, hungry or even a little scared it had such a feeling of wild abandon.  Things might not be going perfectly but they were Vasya’s choices.  As soon as she returns to the City you immediately feel the noose begin to tighten around her.

Overall: great characters, plenty of myth and folklore, fantasy and history coming together in perfect harmony, love, betrayal, deception, beautiful writing and a story that will hold you riveted to the page.

What more can I say.

Read it.

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

Weekly Wrap Up : 07/01/18

This is my first weekly wrap up of the year.  If you celebrate Christmas I hope you had a lovely time and Happy New Year to all of you.

During the past week I’ve read only one book but I’m also part way through a couple of others.  I’ve posted a list of my favourite books of 2017.  I’ve also listed ten ‘must read‘ books from last year and also written a post about the next stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition.  So, not too much on the reading front but I’ve been catching up from a very lazy blogging month during December.

My last book of 2017 and first book of 2018 have worked out really well.  John Gwynne’s A Time of Dread was my last book of the year and it was fantastic.  My review will follow soon.  My first book this year was Tyrell Johnson’s debut The Wolves of Winter.  I hope the rest of my reads continue on such a good streak.  I’m also currently reading Anthony Ryan’s The Waking Fire as part of the Fantasy Hive’s reading club (check out the books for the rest of the year here), The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (as part of both Vintage Sci Fi and the Sci Fi Experience links to details can be found in this post).  These books are going to be chilled reads that I aim to complete by the end of the month.

Books read:

  1. Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

wolvesof

Next Week’s Reads:

  1. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (which I’ve already started and reads beautifully)
  2. The War of Undoing by Alex Perry (my first SPFBO book)

Upcoming reviews:

  1. Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
  2. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
  3. A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
  4. Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.

“It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.”

FFO.jpg

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

Do not go gentle’ – a cover featuring the night…

This week I’ve chosen : The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden.  I loved this book and am about to start reading The Girl in the Tower – which I’m so excited about.  So, here are the covers:

I actually like all these covers – the imagery is so beautiful but my favourite without any doubt is:

bear1

I just love this cover – I would pick this book up without doubt just because of how beautiful it looks.  Fortunately, the book is brilliant and lives up to the promise of the jacket. Can’t judge a book by it’s cover eh!

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover a potion/perfume bottle

Future themes:

15th December 2017 – Hubble bubble toil and trouble – a cover featuring a potion/perfume bottle

22nd December – ‘Oh, we loves games! Doesn’t we, precious?’ – a cover featuring a Puzzle or Game

29th December – If music be the food of love, play on – a cover featuring a Musical Instrument

5th January – ‘The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else’s lake.’ – Under the Sea

12th January – ‘More than one meaning have I’ – a cover featuring a Knot/knots

19th January – You know your A, B, Cs – a cover made up only of letters/words

26th January – “The grass is always greener on the other side of personal extinction” – a cover featuring grass

2nd February – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – a Psychedelic cover

9th February – ‘My what big teeth you have’ – a cover featuring a cloaked figure 

16th February – ‘Groovy baby’ – a cover that is: Retro

23rd February – “There are too many steps in this castle, and it seems to me they add a few every night, just to vex me”  – a cover featuring a staircase

2nd March – ‘The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing’ – a cover featuring something from Greek mythology

9th March – ‘…but Icarus flew too close’ – a cover featuring the Sun

16th March – ‘I got no strings to hold me down’ – a cover featuring a doll or puppet

23rd March – “When she was a child, the witch locked her away in a tower that had neither doors nor stairs.” – a cover featuring a Tower

30th March – ‘A little soil to make it grow’ – a cover featuring seeds/spores

6th April –  “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” – a cover featuring a family

13th April – ‘lawns and rocks and heather and different sorts of trees, lay spread out below them, the river winding through it’ –  a cover featuring a panorama

20th April – Where there’s fire there’s… – a cover featuring smoke

27th April – ‘Those darling byegone times… with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture’ – a cover that is positively mediaeval 

4th May-  ‘A Hand without a hand? A bad jape, sister.’ – a cover featuring a hand/hands

11th May – ‘Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth’ – a cover featuring a dinosaur/s

18th May – ‘Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;’ – a cover featuring a gravestone

25th May – Trip trap, trip trap, trip trap – a cover featuring footsteps

1st June – clinging and invasive – a cover featuring creeping vines

8th June – Raining Cats and Dogs – a cover featuring a stormy sky

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