The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Ardeen. Ballantine/Del Rey. 2017 Netgalley.
A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.
Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.
Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.
But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.
Advance praise for The Girl in the Tower
“Arden’s lush, lyrical writing cultivates an intoxicating, visceral atmosphere, and her marvelous sense of pacing carries the novel along at a propulsive clip. A masterfully told story of folklore, history, and magic with a spellbinding heroine at the heart of it all.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] sensual, beautifully written, and emotionally stirring fantasy . . . Fairy tales don’t get better than this.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Vasya or Vasilisa is thought to be dead by the priest who raised a village against her in The Bear and the Nightingale but she appears while her brother, Sasha, and the Grand Prince are out seeking bandits that have been burning villages. She is dressed as a boy and Sasha reluctantly agrees to keep Vasya’s secret identity while trying to get the truth of her as to what happened to their father and why she is not at home still. She tells him an abbreviated version of the truth: their father is dead, she fled the village as the people thought her a witch.
Through this, Vasya is the only one to catch a glimpse of the bandit’s leader as they root out the bandit camp. When Kasyan joins their group and helps them to fight the bandits no one suspects he is hiding a secret as well. As they return home, to the Grand Prince’s palace and her sister is drawn into the lie about Vasya, those that would take Moscow for themselves begin to seed distrust about Vasya, Sasha, and her sister’s husband, also a prince. Can they save the Grand Prince and his people before it is too late?
Oh, this tale was magnificent! The secrets abound especially with a witch in the tower and Vasya’s niece able to see her though she’s a ghost. Katherine Ardeen’s tale is lush and bold and tells the story of a land I don’t personally know much about Russia, but it is intriguing. It’s told as though a fairytale and that really brings the story across as fresh and lovely as can be. All the characters play their parts well from the outrage at Vasya being dressed as a boy to a priest being reminiscent of a soldier. The setting is breathtaking though I wouldn’t want to live in their land of snow and ice. I get enough of that here in Ohio, lol.
I give the story *****