The second installment of Katherine Arden‘s Winternight Trilogy and the follow-up to The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower continues Vasya’s adventure with a stunning new setting, a cast of characters both new and old, and sees the power of magic taken to a whole new level.
This novel acted as a spectacular addition to Vasya’s story. Instead of being trapped in her isolated village where suspicion lurks behind every corner, Vasya disguises herself as a boy and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Soon, she finds herself center stage in the dangerous yet grandiose world of Moscow. The biggest threat to her well-being is having her real identity exposed since if she is revealed to be both a woman and a liar, there is no telling how the prince will react. As a boy, she is treated as a brave warrior and a hero. But as a girl, she will be shamed and possibly killed.
In a completely welcomed development, she is reunited with brother, Sasha, a monk who also happens to be a trusted advisor to the temperamental prince, and her sister, Olga, a high-status woman with a family of her own. I am so glad that Arden brought back these two characters who were briefly present in the first book but then were somewhat forgotten. Their own stories, as well as their relationship with their strong-willed sister, provides even more depth to the story. These siblings are not the only new characters the readers are introduced to, however. There’s the intimidating Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasya’s gifted young niece, and, yes, a powerful ghost is even thrown into the mix. Many new and exciting mythical creatures also make appearances.
This book provided much more action than the first one. There are epic battles, heart-pounding horse races, and even an emotional kidnapping. Instead of being at the heart of a village plunged in paranoia, Vasya is now at the center of a violent court with a dangerous secret. The climax of this book is packed with action as well as suspense, making it impossible to not keep turning the pages to see how it all ends.
Though I really only have praise for this book, I have to admit that I enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale more. As much as the vibrant streets and political intrigue of Moscow captured my imagination, nothing beats the isolated, small northern town that acted as the setting for the first novel, in my opinion. Though there is much masterfully-done character development to be seen in this novel, the first introductions to the characters in the previous book were more memorable. That being said, this was most definitely a worthy installment in this trilogy and did not disappoint. I am very much looking forward to the third installment of the Winternight Trilogy, The Winter of the Witch. It is sure to be fantastic.