Originally published: 3 October 2019 (paperback)
Author: Katherine Arden
Published by: Ebury Publishing
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Length: 372 pages
Reading dates: 8-13 October 2019
I’m so happy to be taking part in the blog tour for The Winter of the Witch – I read The Bear and The Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower back to back last year and while I was a little nervous I’d be able to remember enough of what had happened (I have an awful memory for book plots), this books kicks off as the last one finishes and before long I was immersed into the magical world of our heroine, Vasya.
Based in part on actual happenings in 14th century Russia, the story opens with Moscow burning after events at the end of the last book. Vasya, a girl with extraordinary powers is blamed and must flee for her life, hounded down by those who blame their own misfortunes on her magic.
In order to save her, a vengeful demon returns and with a mad, evil priest as his sidekick, is stronger than ever. His aim is to engulf the world in chaos, bringing the dead back to life. Vasya, must recover and return to Moscow in order to save her family there and stop him.
This was just so beautifully written. Vasya is a wonderful heroine, not faultless or beautiful but brave and resourceful. She has always had the gift of being able to see and talk to mythological creatures. Split between the real world and a magical realm, we are introduced to all manor of Chyerti, a collection of spirits from Russian folklore. They include the Bannik (a bathroom dweller); Lady Midnight, a demon who comes out only at midnight to cause children’s nightmares and perhaps my favourite character from a book ever, Ded Grib, a magical mushroom (also known as Grandfather Mushroom) who is one of Vasya’s most trusted and important allies!
Add into the mix a pair of brothers, the evil Medved, known as the bear and Morozko, the frost demon (and Vasya’s love interest) and you are left with a book full of magical and beautiful storytelling.
You definitely need to have read the first two parts before you read this, but I urge you to do so. This series is so intelligently written, the research that Arden has done around this time period of Russian history is astounding and it really feels like a fairy-tale. I love Vasya, the different demons we are introduced to and also the relationship she has with her brother Sasha and her sister Olya.
Lots of fantastic background material is also included, explaining the animosity between the Tatars and the people of Moscow, which leads to the battle of Kulikovo and a really handy glossary.
Each scene is richly atmospheric, the book will truly transport you to another world. I highly recommend this series, perfect for cosying up with in the upcoming winter months.
Many thanks to Alice at EBury for sending me a paperback copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour. Be sure to checkout the other stops below…
About the author:
Born in Texas, Katherine studied French and Russian at Middlebury College. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, among other places. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she wrote much of The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.