NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.
“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Vasilisa Petrovna is an unforgettable heroine determined to forge her own path. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.
Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.
Praise for The Winter of the Witch
“Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy isn’t just good—it’s hug-to-your-chest, straight-to-the-favorites-shelf, reread-immediately good, and each book just gets better. The Winter of the Witch plunges us back to fourteenth-century Moscow, where old gods and new vie for the soul of Russia and fate rests on a witch girl’s slender shoulders. Prepare to have your heart ripped out, loaned back to you full of snow and magic, and ripped out some more.”—Laini Taylor
“Luxuriously detailed yet briskly suspenseful . . . a striking literary fantasy informed by Arden’s deep knowledge.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
About the Author
Katherine Arden is the author of the national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. Born in Austin, Texas, she has studied Russian in Moscow, taught at a school in the French Alps, and worked on a farm in Hawaii. She currently lives in Vermont.
Read an Excerpt
Dusk at the end of winter, and two men crossed the dooryard of a palace scarred by fire. The dooryard was a snowless waste of water and trampled earth; the men sank to their ankles in the muck. But they were speaking intently, heads close together, and did not heed the wet. Behind them lay a palace full of broken furniture, smoke-stained; the screen-work smashed on the staircases. Before them lay a charred ruin that had been a stable.
“Chelubey disappeared in the confusion,” said the first man bitterly. “We were busy saving our own skins.” A smear of soot blackened his cheek, blood crusted in his beard. Weary hollows, like blue thumbprints, marred the flesh beneath his gray eyes. He was barrel-chested, young, with the fey energy of a man who has driven himself past exhaustion to a surreal and persistent wakefulness. Every eye in the dooryard followed him. He was the Grand Prince of Moscow.
“Our skins, and a little more,” said the other man—a monk—with a touch of grim humor. For, against all hope, the city was mostly intact, and still theirs. The night before, the Grand Prince had come close to being deposed and murdered, though few people knew that. His city had nearly burned to ash; only a miraculous snowstorm had saved them. Everyone knew that. A swath of black gashed the heart of the city, as though the hand of God had fallen in the night, dripping fire from its nails.
“It was not enough,” said the Grand Prince. “We may have saved ourselves, but we made no answer for the treachery.” All that bitter day, the prince had reassuring words for every man who caught his eye, had calm orders for the men wrangling his surviving horses and hauling away the charred beams of the stable. But the monk, who knew him well, could see the exhaustion and the rage just beneath the surface. “I am going out myself, tomorrow, with all that can be spared,” the prince said. “We will find the Tatars and we will kill them.”
“Leave Moscow now, Dmitrii Ivanovich?” asked the monk, with a touch of disquiet.
A night and a day without sleep had done nothing for Dmitrii’s temper. “Are you going to tell me otherwise, Brother Aleksandr?” he asked, in a voice that made his attendants flinch.
“The city cannot do without you,” said the monk. “There are dead to mourn; there are granaries lost, and animals and warehouses. Children cannot eat vengeance, Dmitrii Ivanovich.” The monk had no more slept than the Grand Prince; he could not quite mask the edge in his own voice. His left arm was wrapped in linen where an arrow had gone into the muscle below the shoulder, and been dragged through and out again.
“The Tatars attacked me in my own palace, after I had made them welcome in good faith,” retorted Dmitrii, not troubling to keep the rage from his reply. “They conspired with a usurper, they fired my city. Is all that to go unavenged, Brother?”
The Tatars had not, in fact, fired the city. But Brother Aleksandr did not say so. Let that—mistake—be forgotten; it could not be mended now.
Coldly, the Grand Prince added, “Did not your own sister give birth to a dead child in the chaos? A royal infant dead, a swath of the city in ashes—the people will cry out if there is not justice.”
“No amount of spilled blood will bring back my sister’s child,” said Sasha, sharper than he meant. Clear in his mind was his sister’s tearless mourning, worse than any weeping.
Dmitrii’s hand was on the hilt of his sword. “Will you lecture me now, priest?”
Sasha heard the breach between them, scabbed over but unhealed, in the prince’s voice. “I will not,” said Sasha.
Dmitrii, with effort, let go the twining serpents of his sword-hilt.
“How do you mean to find Chelubey’s Tatars?” Sasha asked, trying for reason. “We have pursued them once already, and rode a fortnight without a glimpse, though that was in deepest winter, when the snow took good tracks.”
“But we found them, then,” said Dmitrii, and his gray eyes narrowed. “Did your younger sister survive the night?”
“Yes,” said Sasha warily. “Burns on her face, and a broken rib, Olga says. But she is alive.”
Now Dmitrii looked troubled. Behind him, one of the men clearing away the wreckage dropped the end of a broken roof-beam, swearing. “I would not have come to you in time, if it weren’t for her,” Sasha said to his cousin’s grim profile. “Her blood saved your throne.”
“The blood of many men saved my throne,” snapped Dmitrii without looking round. “She is a liar, and she made a liar of you, the most upright of men.”
Sasha said nothing.
“Ask her,” said Dmitrii, turning. “Ask her how she did it—found the Tatars. It can’t be only sharp eyes; I have dozens of sharp-eyed men. Ask her how she did it, and I will have her rewarded. I do not think any man in Moscow would marry her, but a country boyar might be persuaded. Or enough gold would bribe a convent to take her.” Dmitrii was talking faster and faster, his face uneasy, the words spilling out. “Or she may be sent home in safety—or stay in the terem with her sister. I will see she has enough gold to keep her comfortable. Ask her how she did it, and I will make all straight for her.”
Sasha stared, full of words he could not say. Yesterday she saved your life, slew a wicked magician, set fire to Moscow and then saved it all in a single night. Do you think she will consent to disappear, for the price of a dowry—for any price? Do you know my sister?
But of course, Dmitrii did not. He only knew Vasilii Petrovich, the boy she had pretended to be. They are one and the same. Beneath his bluster Dmitrii must realize that; his unease betrayed him.
A cry from the men around the stable spared Sasha from answering. Dmitrii turned with relief. “Here,” he said, striding over. Sasha trailed, grim-faced, in his wake. A crowd was gathering where two burned roof-beams crossed. “Stand aside—Mother of God, are you sheep at the spring grass? What is it?” The crowd shrank away from the steel in his voice. “Well?” said Dmitrii.
One of the men found his tongue. “There, Gosudar,” he said. He pointed at a gap between two fallen posts, and someone thrust down a torch. An echoing gleam came from below where a shining thing gave back the torchlight. The Grand Prince and his cousin stared, dazzled, doubting.
“Gold?” said Dmitrii. “There?”
“Surely not,” said Sasha. “It would have melted.”
Three men were already hauling aside the timbers that pinned the thing to the earth. A fourth plucked it out and handed it to the Grand Prince.
Gold it was: fine gold, and not melted. It had been forged into heavy links and stiff bars, oddly jointed. The metal had an oily sheen; it threw a shimmer of white and scarlet onto the ring of peering faces and made Sasha uneasy.
Dmitrii held it this way and that, then said, “Ah,” and switched his grip so that he held it by the crownpiece, reins over his wrist. The thing was a bridle. “I have seen this before,” said Dmitrii, eyes alight. An armful of gold was very welcome to a prince whose coffers had been shrunk by bandits and by fire.
“Kasyan Lutovich had it on his mare yesterday,” said Sasha, disliking the reminder of the day before. His eye dwelled with disfavor on the spiked bit. “I would not have blamed her for throwing him.”
“Well, this thing is a forfeit of war,” said Dmitrii. “If only that fine mare herself had not vanished—damn those Tatars for horse-thieves. A hot meal and wine for all you men; well done.” The men cheered raggedly. Dmitrii handed off the bridle to his steward. “Clean it,” the Grand Prince said. “Show it to my wife. It might cheer her. Then see it safely locked away.”
“Is it not strange,” Sasha said warily when the reverent steward had departed, the golden thing in his arms, “that this bridle should have lain in the stable as it burned and yet show no hurt?”
“No,” said Dmitrii, giving his cousin a hard look. “Not odd. Miraculous, coming on the heels of that other miracle: the snowstorm that delivered us. You are to tell anyone who asks exactly that. God spared this golden thing, because he knew our need was great.” The difference between uncanny happenings of the benevolent and the wicked sort was no thicker than rumor, and Dmitrii knew it. “Gold is gold. Now, Brother—” But he fell silent. Sasha had stilled, his head lifted.
“What is that noise?”
A confused murmuring was rising from the city outside: a roar and snap, like water on a rocky shore. Dmitrii frowned. “It sounds like—”
A shout from the gate-guard cut him off.
A little way down the hill of the kremlin, the dusk came earlier, and the shadows fell cold and thick over another palace, smaller and quieter. The fire had not touched it, except for singeing from falling sparks.
All Moscow roiled with rumors, with sobs, curses, arguments, questions, and yet here a fragile order reigned. The lamps were lit; servants gathered what could be spared for the comfort of the impoverished. The horses drowsed in their stable; tidy columns of smoke rose from the chimneys of bakehouse and cookhouse, brewhouse, and the palace itself.
The author of this order was a single woman. She sat in her workroom, upright, impeccable, starkly pale. Sweeping lines of strain framed her mouth, though she was not yet thirty. The dark streaks beneath her eyes rivaled Dmitrii’s. She had gone into the bathhouse the night before and delivered her third child, dead. In that same hour, her firstborn had been stolen, and nearly lost in the horrors of the night.
But despite all that, Olga Vladimirova would not rest. There was too much to be done. A steady stream of people came to her, where she sat by the workroom oven: steward and cook, carpenter, baker, and washerwoman. Each one was dispatched with an assignment and some words of thanks.
A pause came between petitioners, and Olga slumped back in her chair, arms wrapped around her belly, where her unborn child had been. She had dismissed her other women hours ago; they were higher in the terem, sleeping off the shocks of the night. But one person would not go.
“You ought to go to bed, Olya. The household can manage without you until morning.” The speaker was a girl, sitting stiff and watchful on a bench beside the oven. She and the proud Princess of Serpukhov both had long black hair, the plaits wrist-thick, and an elusive similarity of feature. But the princess was delicate, where the girl was tall and long-fingered, her wide eyes arresting in the rough-hewn angles of her face.
“You should indeed,” said another woman, backing into the room bearing bread and cabbage stew. It was Lent; they could not eat fat meat. This woman looked as weary as the other two. Her plait was yellow, just touched with silver, and her eyes were wide and light and clever. “The house is safe for the night. Eat this, both of you.” She began briskly ladling out soup. “And then go to bed.”
Olga said, slow with exhaustion, “This house is safe. But what of the city? Do you think Dmitrii Ivanovich or his poor fool of a wife are sending servants out with bread to feed the children that this night has orphaned?”
The girl sitting on the oven-bench paled, and her teeth sank into her lower lip. She said, “I am sure Dmitrii Ivanovich is making clever plans to take vengeance on the Tatars, and the impoverished will just have to wait. But that does not mean—”
A shriek from above cut her off, and then the sound of hurrying footsteps. All three women glared at the door with identical expressions. What now?
The nurse burst into the room, quivering. Two waiting-women panted in her wake. “Masha,” the nurse gasped. “Masha—she is missing.”
Olga was instantly on her feet. Masha—Marya—was her only daughter, the one who had been stolen from her bed just the night before. “Call in the men,” Olga snapped.
But the younger girl tilted her head, as though she were listening. “No,” said the girl. Every head in the room whipped round. The waiting-women and the nurse exchanged dark glances. “She’s gone outside.”
“Then that—” Olga began, but the other interrupted, “I know where she is. Let me go and get her.”
Olga gave the younger girl a long look, which she returned steadily. The day before, Olga would have said that she’d never trust her mad sister with one of her children.
“Where?” Olga asked.
“Very well,” said Olga. “But, Vasya, bring Masha back before the lamps are lit. And if she is not there, tell me at once.”
The girl nodded, looking rueful, and got to her feet. Only when she moved could one see that she was favoring one side. She had a broken rib.
Vasilisa Petrovna found Marya where she’d expected, curled up asleep in the straw of a bay stallion’s stall. The stall door was open, though the stallion was not tied. Vasya entered, but did not wake the child. Instead she leaned against the great horse’s shoulder, pressing her cheek to the silky skin.
The bay stallion put his head around and nosed irrepressibly at her pockets. She smiled, her first real smile of that long day, drew a crust of bread from her sleeve and fed it to him.
“Olga will not rest,” she said. “She puts us all to shame.”
You have not rested either, returned the horse, blowing warm air onto her face.
Vasya, flinching, pushed him away; his hot breath pained the burns on her scalp and cheek. “I do not deserve to rest,” she said. “I caused the fire; I must make what amends I can.”
No, said Solovey, and stamped. The Zhar Ptitsa caused the fire, although you should have listened to me before setting her loose. She was maddened with imprisonment.
Reading Group Guide
1. Sacrifice plays an important role in The Winter of the Witch. We see Morozko sacrifice himself for Vasya, Vasya sacrifice herself to protect her family, Solovey sacrifice himself for Vasya, Sasha sacrifice himself for Russia, Konstantin sacrifice himself for spite, and so on. What do you think the author is saying about the significance of sacrifice?
2. Discuss the ways in which Vasya and Morozko’s relationship has changed over the course of the Winternight Trilogy. What are the various roles they have held in each other’s lives, and where do they stand now?
3. Vasya meets a number of new chyerti that both help and hinder her along her journey. Do you have a favorite fairytale creature in this cast of characters?
4. Why do you think Konstantin is so obsessed with eliminating Vasya? Do you think his fixation on her is a result of hatred or passion? Is there a difference?
5. How does the loss of Solovey impact Vasya? Did she need to suffer this loss in order to fulfill her destiny? How do you feel about his return? Did it seem too convenient? Was it necessary?
6. Discuss Vasya’s lineage. Were you surprised to learn that Vasya descends from Baba Yaga, the witch of the wood, and Chernomor, the sea-king? What do these familial ties imply about Vasya’s abilities, the journey she has taken, and the path she will take from here?
7. Vasya wields her newfound magical powers throughout her mission to save both the magical and mortal worlds. What do you think is the cleverest use of her powers? What is the most foolish thing she does with her magic abilities?
8. How does Pozhar compare as a companion in Vasya’s journeying to Solovey? Could Vasya have been successful without the help of the firebird?
9. At one point it is said, “Medved’s great gift is disorder, and his tools are fear and mistrust. . . . Until he is bound, you cannot trust anyone.” How does Vasya earn the trust of the many chyerti and people she encounters? Is there a key to how she wins them over to her side in spite of the chaotic atmosphere Medved has created?
10. Do you think Konstantin is warped by Medved, or was he already corrupt and therefore an easy target for the Bear’s puppetry? By the end of the trilogy, do you think Konstantin is more of a villain or a victim?
11. What do you think of Vasya’s alliance with Medved? Did you think she would be able to trust him not to betray her?
12. Vasya has long fought to find a balance between the magical world and the Christian church so that both may coexist. How does this struggle for coexistence relate to the world today?
13. Throughout the series, Vasya has struggled to find her place in a society that dictates that a woman must either wed or become a nun. How has Vasya not only taken control of her own future but also influenced the fates of the many other women she has encountered along her journey?
14. The concept of memory (and lack thereof) is an important theme: Vasya must use the power of “forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.” To work her magic, Morozko is trapped by the loss of his memories, and the chyerti are desperate not to be forgotten in the minds of others. What does all this say about the power of memory?
15. In this conclusion to the trilogy, do you think Vasya has finally found the acceptance that she always sought from her family? What about that of the larger community? And among the chyerti? Which group do you think she most reliably found support from throughout her journey—and which is most accepting of her in the end?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'd buy literally anything Katherine Arden is selling. A superb writer. There's nothing bad I can say about her prose, her plot, or her characters. This is incredibly well-researched and wonderfully crafted. One of my favorite series of all time.
Loved the series and the characters -couldn't wait to see how it ended!
The Winter of the Witch Is such a great end to the Winternight Trilogy. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. I loved Vasya's growth, (view spoiler) Vasya's relationship with her sister and her niece is precious. There were some new characters that are introduced in this book, and they added so much to Vasya's character arc and the story in general. The Winter of the Witch was just as atmospheric and magical as The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. I enjoyed this book very much.
I couldn't stop reading!
I still can’t believe this series is over, although this conclusion was absolutely perfect. Katherine Arden’s writing was beautiful, I love how she captured the atmosphere and the characters. Vasya has grown so much since the beginning of the series and I loved her character development in this installment. Plus the folklore and the history!! I feel like I’d need to read this series with reference books near by to catch everything, it’s obvious that Katherine Arden knows the history and lore of the region. This is a story about defying expectations and staying true to yourself. This is a story about family, about love, and about faith. This is a story about magic and how one person can change the world. Overall, The Winter of the Witch was an incredible conclusion to one of my favorite series. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I love this book and this series has become one of my favorites. It's magical, heartfelt, and badass.
I had a mix of emotion when I started reading The Winter of the Witch. I was happy because this book was out. I was apprehensive because of the blurb. I was sad because the trilogy was ending. My feelings were validated for The Winter of the Witch. I never get emotional reading a book. But I did for this one. Vasya was one of my favorite people in The Winter of the Witch. Even when pushed to her limits, she was one of the strongest people in the book. What she endured in this book would have killed lesser people. Instead, it made her a stronger person. It fueled her desire to bind Bear. I was worried about what was going to happen to her after Bear was bound. I was worried that the story was going to flounder. Morozko is one of my favorite characters to date. He stole every single scene that he was in. The fight scene with Bear, his twin, was one of the best supernatural fight scenes that I have read to date. His scenes with Vasya after that were touching. I mean, he did follow her to summer. If that doesn’t tell anyone how he felt, that I don’t know what would. My only complaint is that he refused to get involved in the war. But I understood why. Vasya’s rise to power in this book was amazing to read. I knew that something was going to happen when she was thrust into Midnight. I was thrown for a surprise when it was revealed who her grandmother was. I remember shaking my head and saying “Well, that explains a lot”. I liked how Vasya was able to keep her promise to the chyerti. There were points in the book, after her journey to Midnight, where I thought that she was failed. I have never been more happy to be proved wrong!! There were several deaths in The Winter of the Witch. The death of Solovey, at the beginning of the book, broke my heart. Vasya never recovered from it. There was one death where I cheered. The other notable death was at the end of the book. I was crushed at that person’s death. Freaking crushed. I did cry. No shame here in admitting that. The end of The Winter of the Witch was an emotional read for me. I am not going to give away spoilers but I was thrilled with how it ended. I was also thrilled with the other thing that happened. That came out of left field for me. I was happy. I might have done a fist pump and say “Yes!!“. I want to add that the Author’s Note was a welcome surprise. I liked that the author used an actual battle as the backdrop of the one that took place at the end of the book. The Grand Prince and Sasha were actual people. She admitted to tweaking parts of the battle (which I expected). She pointed out something interesting about Russia that ended with the Revolution. Made me go “Hmmmm“. As was her fitting reference about the guardians of Russia. What I loved was that she included a glossary. She also included a note on Russian names. Both were helpful!!
Although I knew I was already enthralled with Katherine Arden’s writing after reading Small Spaces and the first two books in this trilogy, The Winter of the Witch solidified that this is one of my favorite series of all time. I have loved each and every moment of this series and am so overjoyed with how it ended even as I am sobbing over the fact that it’s over. This series is magical and enchanting, full of beautiful lyrical prose, riveting monsters, man-beasts, spirits, and factual Russian history. The first book includes whimsical folklore tales with a slow burn of conflict between Christian and pagan. The second book pulls you in by depicting the upheaval in medieval Russia of politics, invaders and a feudal system. Everything is heightened in this third and final book, higher stakes, more dangerous risks taken, on and on it continues until Arden culminates to one epic battle of all parties. This is where not only the individual book ends, but rather it seamlessly brings together all you learned and felt in the first two books as well. In an Author’s Note, Arden explains that she always knew where this story would end even though so many changes were made throughout her writing process. I can see why as it perfectly brings together the conflicts brought up in each novel; the Rus’ against the Tatars, Christian against pagan and a young woman fighting to fulfill her own desires while still satisfying her family. The Winter of The Witch picks up where The Girl in the Tower ended, Vasya has saved Moscow but the city, and a specific Priest, is searching for someone to blame for the recent havoc wrought on its inhabitants. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. And thus this story opens with some distressing moments that invoked a slew of emotions within me. Meanwhile, the Grand Prince is enraged and finds allies to seek vengeance, but it may lead him to war and ruin. And a terrifying demon returns, intent on reaking havoc. Once again we see how anger and fear can make people search for the wrong type of assistance, creating darkness and pain in the lives of others and ourselves. We also have to consider that not all monsters are evil and maybe they are not meant to be slain. What if we need them in our lives? What if they care and weep for us and we never knew? Onto the characters. Vasya is such an amazing character and I love her strength and bravery but also her flaws. After all her experiences, she is now angry at the wicked actions of men and struggles to stop herself from seeking vengeance and cruelty over them all. We delve deeper into the brotherly bond of Dmitrii and Sasha, with some nail biting suspicion due to the lies told in the second book. And we meet some new characters, mortal and spirits, that bring new light and layers to the story. These spirits bring us to a new land of darkness that Arden so beautifully creates that I was enchanted all over again. I’ve been saying it in each of my reviews, but I cannot ever give enough praise to Arden and her creation of this magical tale.
"I will leave riding the horses of legend to you, witch girl. It is like trying to ride a thunderstorm." If I were to sum up all three books, including this one, it is with this quote. Vasya, and her ability to talk to horses, is what allows her to go out into the world, and become the witch that she is, by this book. It helps that she also can speak to the spirits of the house, and stove, and horses. Spirits that were neglected, because of the Christian teachings. This third book begins with Vasya in trouble from the moment the book begins. The problem is, what do you do with a strong woman who does not want to play by the rules? Where does she fit in society? What would become of her? Of course this is always a problem, but more so with the constraints of the society she was born into. I love that using magic causes people to go mad, because it is a distortion of reality. This is why so few manage to weld it, and survive. A very satisfactory ending to the series, and like all good series, I will miss everyone. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Unable to put it down. Fascinating and compelling reading. Remarkable story and or History. Really loved this series.
The Winter of the Witch is the third and final installment in the Bear and the Nightengale Trilogy. Fortunately for me, I waited until I received the ARC to binge read all three books, as I would never have patiently waited for the last installment otherwise. Winter of the Witch concludes the story of Vasilisa Petrovna, a woman whose power is part of the lore of Russian mythology and who finds herself entangled in a war between man and man and also between man and myth. Times are changing and the ancient magic of Russia is dying as people begin to put their faith in religion rather than myth. However, while most of these fairy tale entities experience waning powers, the bear is loose and finds his powers strengthened as war and chaos assert themselves in the gaps left where magic once lived. Magic, sorcery, fear, love, family and sacrifice come together in a story that is as filled with mystery and despair as it is with hope and restoration. Arden has created a rich imaginary world alongside the historical events she uses as a backdrop for her trilogy. The result is breathtakingly satisfying. The Bear and the Nightengale trilogy is one of those rare stories where each book is as satisfying as the last. The narrative is tightly written and creatively explosive. I lost more than a few hours of sleep over these books, but especially Winter of the Witch because I simply couldn't stop turning the pages. Thank you to Net Galley for a free copy in return for an unbiased review.
Seductive and innocent magic. A memory that is like a sophisticated folk dance that feels private and old at it’s best.
The Winter of the Witch is the final book in Katherine Arden's The Winternight Trilogy. I read "The Bear and the Nightengale" and "The Girl in the Tower" so was thrilled to get an ARC. You definitely have to read the first two books to make any sense of this one - but please do. This is a unique, very well-written series. Here we find Vasya Petrovka trying to escape Moscow after she caused the burning of the city by releasing the Firebird. The narcissistic priest, Konstatin Niconovich, whips the citizens into a frenzy that culminates in the capture and burning of the witch girl, Vasya. She is rescued and healed by various chyerti, (spirits of Russian folklore) and with their help she frees the winter god of death, Morozko. Morozko and Vasya have fallen in love over the course of the three books and their love is finally acknowledged. She needs his help to capture his twin, the Bear (god of chaos) who has been controlling the priest, Konstatin, and intends to raise an army of the dead to over take Moscow. No sooner do they succeed and say reluctant goodbyes then Vasya is compelled to help her brother, the monk Sasha, and her cousin, Prince Dimitri battle the Tatars for Russia's freedom using all the magic she has mastered and relying on the help of the Bear, Morozko, and the chyerti she befriended.. Arden has taken actual events in Russian history and combined them with Russian folklore and a big helping of magic to spin a fabulous tale. It was at once compelling,suspenseful, entertaining and heartbreaking. I encourage readers to read the trilogy in order and to pick up "The Winter Witch" as soon as possible. The Russian names were confusing at first, but the author includes a explanation as well as a glossary. The story is so good you soon forget any difficulty you had in the beginning. I was sad to say good by to these characters. I'd love to see them in other novels. I am very grateful for the ARC and the chance to share my love for the book.
You know when you love a series and each book is better than the last and then the final book comes out and it’s impossibly perfect and you’re filled with a sense of completion and satisfaction and yes, a little bit of sadness it’s over, but mostly you’re in awe of your reading experience? Well, now you know how I feel about The Winter Of The Witch and the Winternight Trilogy. Winter Of The Witch picks up where Girl In The Tower left off and it’s pretty much off to the races from the start. This book was INTENSE, in a good way, even if some parts made me very nervous. This was action-packed and just when one arc would resolve, I’d realize there was more to come. But it was always in service of the plot and the characters. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! Arden explored the theme of belonging in some really interesting ways. Morozco is winter—he is the Frost Demon, after all—and it is basically impossible for him to be with Vasya in other seasons. Vasya does not want to be reduced to a wife: she doesn’t want to belong to a man in their patriarchal world. Then there are the familial relationships between Vasya and her siblings and aunt and the ways they work in tandem and apart. I also really enjoyed all of the symbolism at play. When I consider the whole of this trilogy, I marvel over where Vasya was when we started and where she winds up in the end. She’s grown in big ways but the heart of her character is the same. She sees herself as an agent of chaos, like Medved, only she’s trying to help people when trouble ensues, whereas he delights in wreaking havoc. One of Vasya’s tasks is to recognize her monstrous sides without giving in to those impulses and saying connected to the light and to her family. Winter Of The Witch blurs the lines of good and evil, as we also see other sides of both the Frost Demon and the Bear. Vasya does not belong to Morozco or Medved. This makes her powerful in her own right and I loved watching her really come in to her own. She’s her own person with her own wants and desires and she’s not there to take sides. She is their very literal balance. Or as she says, “born to be in between.” The way this came together was magnificent. Lastly, there's Vasya and Morozco's relationship. Look. I don't know how many times I have to say it but if being in love with a Frost Demon is wrong, I don't want to be right. As such, I absolutely loved the new developments in their relationship and where things stood between them. This was such a fitting end to the trilogy and cements the Winternight trilogy as one of my favorites. Highly recommended. CW: death of a horse, violence, mob violence, threatened rape, war Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.
The Winter of the Witch is the third and (sadly) final book in an amazing series by Katherine Arden. Thank you to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this beautifully written book. This book picks up where the last book ended and the charismatic priest Konstantin Nikonovich has convinced the mobs that the fires that broke out all over the city was God's punishment for the prince harboring a witch, Vasya, and that she must be burned to death as punishment. Through a crazy chain of events Vasya escapes and is set on the magical Midnight Road where she discovers more about her family, her past and what her future might be. This book was great beginning to end. It was fast paced, stayed intriguing and was very hard to put down. I was first enchanted by the first book and the Russian folklore that was woven throughout and this book did not disappoint. I will definitely continue recommending this series. Loved it!
What gorgeous cover art, befitting the wild and vibrant conclusion to Katherine Arden's Winternight trilogy. This third part takes us onward to the famous Battle of Kulikovo in 1380 between the Rus and the Tatars, the first time the people of Rus came together under the guidance of the grand prince of Moscow to defeat a foreign adversary--marking perhaps the spiritual birth at least of the nation of Russia. But in this folk-tale retelling, it is also a battle between the new religion of Christianity and old paganism with its belief in the powers of chyerti, various spirits and demons of folklore. Arden has concocted a fairy-tale like story to flesh out these historical details in her trilogy featuring courageous young Vasilisa Petrovna, a wild, witch-like girl who is just coming to an understanding of her own powers. But "magic makes men mad. They forget what is real because too much is possible." Will she end up a madwoman like her great-grandmother Baba Yaga? Or will she be strong enough to be the uniting force between both pagan and Christian beliefs, bringing stability to her country and people? I am actually hoping there will be more to this series--I have enjoyed it that much and don't wish for it to end! I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. Many thanks! My first read of 2019 and my first 5-star rating!
While reading this book I could not help but think modern day Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Chronicles of Narnia. With that series being one of my favorites of all time, I was really anticipating reading this book. Readers in our library have read The Bear and the Nightingale and really enjoyed it because the book reminded them of Narnia but they said this one was more modern and more sophisticated therefore this book was better. I have to say.....they were right. Every single chapter there was a new surprise twist, things happened unexpectedly and it's one of those books that you will not want to stop reading to find out what will happen to Vasya and will she discover who she is in time to save the kingdom. Very magically enticing. . That is why we give this book 5 stars.
I couldn't stop reading. As thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling as the first two.
The Winter of the Witch was a perfect way to kick off the new year! I read both the previous books in December and this one rose easily to their standard. The Winternight trilogy is a fairy tale with the scope of an epic; its final installment more than lived up to the promise of the other two books. It's rare for me to find each book in a series better than the one before it, especially when the first installments set such a high bar. That was the case here, though. I'd be hard pressed to think of anything I didn't enjoy about the Winternight trilogy as a whole and this book in particular. I recommend The Winter of the Witch to readers who enjoyed the previous novels; the whole series will appeal to fans of Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver and anybody who likes their historical fantasy with a strong dash of myth and magic. 5/5 stars - definitely a book/series I'll read again and share with all my friends.
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden Actual Rating 5 stars I loved this book and the previous two. This trilogy is the only rival to my favorite book trilogy The Cobweb Bride. I must admit that at this moment in time these two trilogies are tied for the best books of all time. Very rarely do I come across a series that combines all elements of books that I love in equal parts without overdoing one area or another. Needless to say I love this trilogy. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and I loved the beautiful prose and writing style. Characters Vasya: Vasya is one of the most feminist characters I have read about. Her unwillingness to conform to what society wanted her to do was inspiring and amazing to read about. I truly loved watching her grow. I must admit that there were times I wanted to cry for Vasya and her struggles that she went through in order to grow into the woman she needed to be to unit her worlds. I truly enjoyed her watching her relationships with all the other characters develop and change over the course of the three novels. I can only hope that I have the opportunity to read more novels with main characters like Vasya. Morozko: Morozko is was an amazing character. His personality was well rounded and complex. At times I viewed him as a dangerous demon that could destroy everything around him and at other times I viewed him as a character who was lost and didn't know what way to turn or what to do in order to ensure his kinds survival. Over the course of the three novels you can truly see his character change and develop into a more relatable entity. Not to mention I loved watching the complex and confusing romance blossom and transform between Vasya and Morozko. Olga: I must admit that while reading The Girl in the Tower I was unsure of Olga. I struggled to understand her hesitance to invite Vasya in. But as time went on and I saw her change and I saw why she feared what Vasya’s appearance meant for her family I came to understand her and like her better. I found that Olga was strong in her own way and did all she could to help out without endangering her children and this in it self is a unique and admirable quality that I must commend. By the end of The Winter of the Witch I found that admired Olga and her silent strength in the face of danger. Sasha: Sasha was a difficult character for me to understand at first. His reluctance to believe that what Vasya was doing was for the greater good had me questioning his character. But just like Olga as time went on came to admire him. I admired his dedication to his religion even though he came to see and experience older darker religion that resided in his country. I also greatly admired his dedication to his country and his family even though he was unsure at first. Finally I must commend his bravery in all things he did. Solovey: Aside from Vasya, Solovey was my favorite character in the entire series. I absolutely loved his quiet strength, his love for Vasya, and his bravery in the face of incredible danger. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn't do to save and protect Solovey from danger and harm. I must admit that I cried for him and mourned the pain he went through and I must admit that I feared for the conclusion to his character arc but in the end I was greatly pleased with what came to pass. Konstantin: I pitied Konstantin, I pitied his loss of religion and his loss of purpose. With that being said I also found him to be a horribly ma
Katherine Arden’s books just keep improving with each one. Her third book in the Winternight Trilogy was every bit as exciting as I was hoping for. Arden’s books remind me so much of why I loved fairy tales as a child. In the third book, Vasya, the main character, finds herself in a precarious position at the beginning of the story. Right away some devastating events occur and Vasya must escape to a safer place. Along the way, she learns more about her heritage and her powers as a witch. Vasya develops into a peacemaker of sorts, to bring about the best outcomes for everyone. She finds her true path and she also finds romance throughout her difficult journey. I especially loved the role of the horses in the story and how valued they were to Vasya. The ending was wonderful and just the sort of fairy tale ending I was anticipating. Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for allowing me to read and advance copy and give my honest review.
What a series! I loved the first two books so much, I was fully prepared to throw a major tantrum if I didn’t get the ARC for this third volume. Well not really a tantrum, but I would have been very upset in my feels. Thankfully, the book gods at Del Rey publishing smiled down upon me and gifted me with Winter of the Witch. Please note: This is not a series that I would recommend you just jump into on book three. You definitely need to read the first to books before you begin this one. The Bear and the Nightingale (#1) The Girl in the Tower (#2) It’s also impossible to write a synopsis without inadvertently spoiling something so I will only speak in generalities about the tone/theme of the book and about the characters themselves. The book opens with heartbreak, with the first death coming hard and fast. I was stunned because this character’s demise was completely unexpected and absolutely devastating. This was harder to take because the plot structure and writing has been splendid throughout the series. The characters are nuanced and have great depth. It’s a fairy tale type setting, but these are the old russian fairytales. Full of night demons, chyerta, and wonderful little domovoi, or house spirits. Previous books have focused on the rising tide of Christianity and how it is forcing the native magical folk creatures to diminish. Enter Vasya. She has an affinity for communicating with these creatures and is herself full of spirit and bravery. In this book, Vasya takes the fairy tale setting and proceeds to upend it entirely. She is revealed to be the powerful young woman that we’ve been been getting hints of throughout the first two books. She was never the damsel in distress or the maiden in the tower. She is a source of strength and a unifying force. She is as always a joy to read. I’m only sorry that the series had to end, but not sorry in the least for how it did. There are no completely bad or good characters. There are only individuals. Each with their own motivations, having good qualities and bad liberally mixed together. As Morozko says, “The wicked still mourn, Vasya.” In understanding that truth, she learns to see that all of these creatures, human and chyerti, for good and evil, have a place in the world . Song for this book: Steady by The Staves Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley
I just finished The Winter of the Witch early this morning. Yes, I stayed up until 1 am reading this book because it was just that good. I was fortunate enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy from NetGalley. This book took me a little less than a month to finish. The reason for that is because I never wanted the book to end. I savored this book like it was decadent cheesecake. It truly was beautiful. Katherine Arden has a way with creating characters that you become invested in. You meet old characters and some new ones. Each character is fleshed out and it's fascinating to see how they all have changed for the better or worse in this novel. The plot is unique and had quite a few twists and turns. I loved how I never knew what was going to happen. It takes a true storyteller to create something so different and so compelling. I laughed, I cried, and I never wanted it to end. If I could give this infinite stars I would. This was spectacular. If you haven't read the others in this series, you're missing out. This has quickly become my favorite fantasy series.
"The Winter of the Witch" is the third and final book in Katherine Arden’s "Winternight Trilogy." What started with "The Bear and the Nightingale"—and yes, readers need to read that book and the second book, "The Girl in the Tower," in order to know what is going on in the third book—ends with this beautiful end to a beautiful trilogy. This historical fiction fantasy starts where the second book ended, with Moscow recovering from both a fire and the actions of a wicked magician. Once again, Vasilisa Petrovna’s actions have caught up with her, and she barely escapes with her life. Then, she must come up with a plan to unite ALL of Russia—humans and chyerti—to fight against the invading Tatars, and to find balance between two belief systems. Christianity is now the dominant religion in Russia with the amount of people who keep the older traditions decreasing, the Tatars continue their campaign to take over Russia, ancient feuds continue to play on, and Vasya is a step closer to coming into her own and accepting her destiny. Arden presents the conflicts and then shows how all of her characters deal with them within the story. Since the narrative is given from multiple viewpoints without the other characters knowing what is happening to other characters, readers know that each narrative is reliable and realistic. The resolution does not give the characters enough knowledge of what happened to the other characters as well, and that provides a believable ending. If "The Bear and the Nightingale" was the first book that introduced us to Katherine Arden, then "The Winter of the Witch" is the book that cements her as one of the best speculative fiction authors in this era of publication. Katherine Arden takes folklore and reshapes it into a new story to be read and enjoyed the same way Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor and Naomi Novik have done within their books. Folklore is part of a culture, and Arden incorporated the importance of a country unifying, not just for its survival, but also for its way of life through their culture. The author did a beautiful job expressing this within her writing. I am proud to say that I’ve read Katherine Arden’s books since the publication of her first novel, and I’ve enjoyed them all! Now, while this review is about the last book in the trilogy, I still have to mention all of the books in the trilogy. There are many trilogies in the speculative fiction genre; and, when it comes to the trilogies I’ve read from that genre, the "Winternight Trilogy" leaves me with the same level of satisfaction as "His Dark Materials" (by Philip Pullman) and "The Broken Earth" (by N.K. Jemisin) trilogies. Anyone who knows about how I feel about those trilogies, know that’s a big deal! Reading Vasya’s journey from childhood to adolescence to adulthood was an absolute joy and I’m glad Katherine Arden shared her story with us. I recommend this novel, and the series, to all readers of the speculative fiction genre. None of you will be disappointed.