The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #2) / ★★★★☆
Summary: Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.
“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.”
In the end, I ended up very much enjoying this sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale, however I was not nearly as enthralled with it as I was its predecessor. It’s not an excessively long book – only 345 pages, I believe – but it took me about three weeks to get through it. I enjoyed it while I read it, but never felt compelled to read for long periods of time. The Bear and the Nightingale was a similarly slow paced book, but that one was able to capture my attention for hours. There was a lot of…wandering, in this book. I felt like it took a while for the plot to really start up, and for characters to get anywhere. In the end, I see how everything fell together, and I liked it, but it wasn’t really until the last few chapters that I felt anything near the excitement I had for the first book.
Still, I did give The Girl in the Tower four stars. I love Katherine Arden’s writing style, it’s rich and vivid, and she’s so good at writing stiflingly cold weather I felt physically cold while reading this (really, I had my electric heater blowing on me as I read). While I do think the richness of her prose lends a bit to the slow pace of the book, I can forgive that. And even though it took a while for the plot to really…do much, I did enjoy spending time with the characters, and I love Vasya. One of my favorite themes of this series, and particularly this book, is freedom. I love rooting for Vasya’s freedom – from marriage, from the society restrictions for women, from Morozco – and I also love how in her absolute need for it – for herself, for others – she makes bad choices that had me wishing she’d use a bit more restraint, and growing really frustrated with her. I love a character whose strengths also lends to their flaws. Morozco also really grew on me in this book. I liked him before, but I wasn’t feeling the depth of what I felt for the other characters toward him. He seemed a bit like a stereotypical ‘forbidden love interest,’ but as I got to know him more deeply in this book, and see his relationship with Vasya grow as well, I grew a lot more invested – and simply interested – in him as a character. I really look forward to seeing what happens with him in the last book.
I really loved the ending of this book, too. Like The Bear and the Nightingale, I did think it was a bit fast, but I actually ended up enjoying the end of this book more than that one. By the time was finally fully engaged, the book was over! But it makes me excited to pick up the next one, which I hadn’t felt so hot toward doing when I was halfway through this The Girl in the Tower. I don’t think I’ll be reading the next one ASAP, but I definitely will be reading it- I really enjoy these characters, and while I wasn’t quite as enchanted by this second installment as I was the first, I still really love this universe, and I need to see how it ends.