The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – Book 2
As you may have read in my previous post, I reviewed The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden which was a fantastic start in my opinion.
Today’s post will focus on Book #2 of The Winternight Trilogy called The Girl in the Tower.
I’m assuming you’ve read book 1 which is why I’ll begin with a *Spoiler* so if you haven’t read it, you may want to skip this paragraph.
Book 2 opens after the events involving the Bear’s defeat at the cost of the lives of Vasya’s father and stepmother. The villagers assume it was her fault and claim her a witch which is why she leaves her siblings on the horse: Solovey that was given to her by the Winter King. The Winter King persuades her to go back home and not become a traveler.
“You cannot take vengeance on a whole people because of the doings of a few wicked men.”
However, our Vasya will not be ordered around by any man and after putting up a good fight she leaves for the road to look for new adventures with Solovey. Here I should mention that the horse Solovey is an adorable and amazing partner to Vasya, one you can’t help but feel attached to. As she can speak to him, their relationship takes on different colors as friends, partners, siblings etc
“Things are or they are not, Vasya,” he interrupted. “If you want something, it means you do not have it, it means that you do not believe it is there, which means it will never be there. The fire is or it is not. That which you call magic is simply not allowing the world to be other than as you will it.”
While on the road she comes across many villages that are burnt to the ground by unknown people who take the girls and kill the men. Vasya comes across one village where after seeing the gruesome sights she ventures to find the daughter of one woman who’s house domovoi promises their loyalty if she rescues their girl.
“How? I am a demon and a nightmare; I die every spring, and I will live forever.
And here we take a turn back to Moscow, where Vasya’s older siblings: Sasha and Olga are caught in the games, schemes and manipulations of the thrones, and doing their best to support the new Grand Prince Dmitrii. In an unforeseen turn of events, Sasha and the Dmitrii end up meeting Vasya with the rescued children. “
“Why carve things of wood,” she asked him, “if you can make marvelous things of ice with only your hands?” He glanced up. “I carve things of wood because things made by effort are more real than things made by wishing.”
Instead of revealing her true identity she pretends to be Vasillii, Sasha’s younger brother. As Vasya is described as not a “beauty” like her sister, she easily passes off like a boy among the men with only Sasha aware of her true identity. However, Vasya’s secret isn’t safe and when the Grand Prince takes a liking to her as a brave soldier much to Sasha’s chagrin, one man is hell bent on unveiling her disguise in the most horrifying way.
“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you,” she said at last fiercely. “But my life is not your game.”
The Girl in the Tower is an ode to Olga as she lives in a tower of her husband Sergei who is the Grand Prince’s right hand. While this book is about Vasya’s journey it also shows us a glimpse into the other siblings who moved away to Moscow. Even though Olga wasn’t much older than Vasya we’re shown how mature she has become in order to survive in Moscow and among the princesses.
“I want freedom,” she said at the length, almost to herself. “But I also want a place and a purpose. I am not sure I can have either, let alone both. And I do not want to live a lie.”
Similarly, Olga’s daughter is revealed to have similar powers like Vasya and the struggle Olga faces in controlling her as she is princess is immense. The Girl in the Tower is pretty serious as compared to The Bear and the Nightingale, and time and time again my heart broke when Vasya was limited because she was a girl.
“A woman married. Or she became a nun. Or she died. That was what being a women meant. What then, was she?”
The limitations women had to face back then were too many to be counted and a character like Vasya who truly is an outlier, an outcast makes you forget that there are boundaries she can’t cross.
It is easy to forget that The Girl in the Tower isn’t based in the 21st century but the 14th. Therefore, while I did feel angry at some points regarding the patriarchal and suppressive norms the women were forced to abide by, the story had to stay true them while making exceptions here and there.
“Witch. The word drifted across his mind. We call such women so, because we have no other name.”
The Girl in the Tower shows that even if there is a princess stuck in a tower, she has moves up her sleeves that can make or break a kingdom, and when you have a powerful witch as a sister, she may be only thing that can save the city when it is inches away from burning down to the ground.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 5.0/5.0
- Favourite Quote: “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.”
- Should you read it: I am telling you this is a stunning fantasy series set in 14th century Russia which shouldn’t be ignored.
- Reader level: fairly easy. I love how the author includes the meaning of the Russian words she uses at the end. You will understand everything from Boyar, Domovoi, Samovar etc
- Would I read it again: you bet I will!
Till next time,