Title: The Winter of the Witch
Series: The Winternight Trilogy (Book 3)
Author: Katherine Arden
Release Date: 10th January 2019
Publisher: Del Rey (Ebury Publishing)
My Rating: 5 Stars!
“One girl can make a difference… Moscow is in flames, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to blame. Vasilisa, a girl with extraordinary gifts, must flee for her life, pursued by those who blame their misfortune on her magic. Then a vengeful demon returns, stronger than ever. Determined to engulf the world in chaos, he finds allies among men and spirits. Mankind and magical creatures alike find their fates resting on Vasya’s shoulders. But she may not be able to save them all.”
“Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.”
Guys, I don’t even know how to tell you how much I love this series. This third and final book was no disappointment and I’m so sad that the series is over now. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this sad that a series has ended, I could get lost in Katherine Arden’s poetic fairytale world forever.
One of the things that always gets me with this series is just how simply beautiful the writing style is. It’s lyrical and poetic, descriptive and vivid, and I just love how she even continues this fairytale manner of writing into the dialogue. It really bugs me in a series when the world is medieval and inspired by somewhere like Russia or Poland, but the characters speak like they’re from modern-day America. The way the dialogue flows is beautiful. Morozko feels like the ancient death-god that he is because his dialogue is written to make him truly feel like that.
I think Vasya is always going to be one of my favourite heroines. She isn’t perfect, across the series she has made disastrous mistakes with serious consequences, but she will always keep fighting. She refuses to accept her position in society and no matter how many times she is put back in her place, she will always break free and follow her destiny. I also love how her relationship with Marya, her niece who also can see the cheyerti, has developed. She is the guiding hand to this young girl in a harsh world that Vasya herself never had. I can definitely see potential for us to see Marya again in a different book.
One of the things I loved about the plot of this book, is that the climactic conflict is not between two magical parties. It’s based on the true historic war from 14th Century Russia between the Prince of Moscow and the Golden Horde. Tensions that led to this battle were building throughout the second book and it all finally came to a head in TWOTW. To me, this really grounded this series and made it feel so much more real. Arden considered the actual history of medieval Russia and wove it beautifully into this fairytale inspired fantasy, which is something I’ve not seen before. Other known and beloved Russian characters popped up in this book such as Baba Yaga, which again feels like Arden really delved into her source material and worked it into this final book in a really effective way. The expansion of the story and the world from The Bear and the Nightingale is insane, but so much of the plot of TBATN circled back round and became instrumental to the plot of this final book. It was really very clever and a real pleasure to read. This series is just so wonderfully crafted and there is really no comparison.
Vasya’s connection with the other characters of this story, Morozko, Solovey, Sasha ect made it so special. I never thought I’d love a horse, a priest and a death-god so much. Vasya and Morozko’s relationship really bloomed and it just furthered the theme of Vasya following her heart and destiny, rather than succumbing to the expectations placed on her by her culture. Its just beautiful and I think Arden was really able to make a statement about the outdated views on women, some of which are still present today.
These books are always a slow read for me. I find that I need to take the time to absorb the writing style, thick with poetry and description. However, my time spent with these books always feels so special and magical and that feeling is something wonderful. To be able to take away the feeling that I get from these books is incredible and a true testament to the beauty of Katherine Arden’s writing. I truly hope she has more fairytale inspired fantasies in the works, because I’d be honoured to read more. It feels to me like Arden left certain avenues unexplored but open, and I’m hoping this is deliberate. I can definitely see where she could go next from this point, the revelation of Vasya’s heritage, Marya, the world of Midnight… I feel like there is plenty more still to be explored and I desperately hope we will be revisiting this world!
All in, if you’re sitting on the fence about whether to start this series, or maybe you read The Bear and the Nightgale and you’re not sure whether you’re going to continue with the series, please pick these books up! They’re such a treat to the senses and some of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. The Winter of the Witch was a fantastic conclusion to this beautiful series and I cannot wait to see more from Katherine Arden!