What a splendid and very beautiful tale. I am soo immersed in it and the morning after, I feel I still am embraced by the warm tale and of course the courage of Vasya, the heroin in the tale, weaved by the ever talented Katherine Arden. I am most arden fan of yours, Kathy!
Some great reviews from Goodreads about the tale :
Words cannot describe how much I cherish this book. The characters were described so well and the story was absolutely fantastic and so magical. ♡♡♡Certain parts of the story felt so nostalgic to me. It reminded me of my upbringing with my Russian grandmother and our old Orthodox Church. Matyushka, Batyushka and many of the other words in the story evoked a glimpse into my past. There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about this book. Happy with all of it, every word, even the ending.
I would definitely recommend reading the glossary in the back of the book first to understand the meaning of some of the words. ♡♡♡
I have high expectations and can’t wait for the second book “The Girl in the Tower.”
This is an atmospheric and intoxicating read that draws on history and Russian fairytales. Set in medieval times, it charts the origins of Vasya’s birth and her mother’s determination to have a daughter endowed with her grandmother’s powers despite it meaning her death in childbirth. The novel begins with Dunya telling the story of Frost, a harbinger for what comes later.
Vasya is an enchanting rough and tumble girl, more at home in the wild outdoors and who chafes at the limitations pressed upon her. She has the abilities of her grandmother and can see, hear and feel what others cannot. She communes with and feeds the protective guardian spirits of her home, stables, forests and water. She is fearless, brave, kind of spirit, generous and has a heart full of love. All is well until the arrival of Anna and the priest, Konstantin, begin to tear apart the community through fear, presaging the bitterest cold weather, crop failures, famine and death. A gifted jewel with magical properties proves to be a vital protective talisman for our Vasya.
Anna, like Vasya, can see and hear what others cannot. However, this engenders terrifying fear in her and a zealous religious piety. Konstantin sees it as his duty to move the community to Christian beliefs and he achieves this by raising the fear factor. People begin to no longer value their spirits and guardians and abandon them. And as they wither and diminish, the dead stalk the living and the fortunes of the place hang in the balance. The only hope is Vasya, who by now is rumoured to be a witch who must be beaten into submission through marriage or convent. Neither is an acceptable option and Vasya enters the icy forest harbouring desperate fantastical dangers. Aided by the Winter King and Solovey, the nightingale, Vasya is to battle the bear for the soul of the world.
This novel pierces humanity’s Achilles heel to let us see how anger and fear allow people to let in the forces of destruction to wreak havoc. We only have to look at the world and see this is so. This is a richly imagined spellbinding novel that entrances the reader. It dwells on the themes of love, loss and what it is to be different. I understand there are to be two further books to come. I adored this story completely and urge others to read it. A brilliant book! Thanks to Random House Ebury for an ARC.
Do you know that fuzzy feeling when you find a book with a world so immersive that you don’t want it to ever end? This was a book like that for me. I absolutely adored it – and I am not quite sure if this review will at all be coherent, but I’ll try my best.
This was a book that I was super super excited to get to read early. I love books set in Russia, especially the North of Russia; I love Fairy Tales; I love the books the blurb compared it to. I only wanted to read the first chapter because I have loads of unfinished books already but I was immediately drawn in and did not feel like reading anything else. I absolutely devoured it and when I came up again I was a bit sad that the book wasn’t longer (especially because the last 3% were the glossary so the book ended a good 15 pages before I thought it would!). That so rarely happens with me!
The book tells the story of Vasya, a child whose mother was a bit other-worldly and who died giving birth to her. Vasya is different herself, being able to converse with household-spirits that nobody else can see. In true fairy tale fashion, her father remarries and the stepmother is, well not exactly evil, but one of the main antagonistic forces of this story. In a world where the new Christian beliefs are at odds with the older, heathen beliefs, this conflict comes to a head when a new priest is appointed to their little village and sets into motion a series of events that will have the heroine come face to face with arcane powers.
Set in the North of Russia with its seemingly ever-lasting winter, the author creates an atmosphere so believable, and enchanting, and surreal, and creepy, and beautiful, I could picture it every step of the way. Her characters are equally believable and even though they all fit the tropes of the genre, Katherine Arden adds little twists that make this story incredibly original and readable. One of my favourite of her decisions was the complete lack of romantic interest the heroine shows. She just wants to decide her life for herself; a difficult thing to do in a time when the two options open for her are a) marriage or b) joining a convent.
Overall, in case anyone missed it, I absolutely adored this book and its main character. I love the little nods to fairy tales I grew up with and I love the focus on making your own choices rather than just doing what is expected and/ or easy. The only slight negative I can find is that I found the ending to be rushed; but then again I just didn’t want the book to end, ever.