Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Title The Girl in the Tower
Author Katherine Arden
Genre Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Russian Folklore
Format Kindle Edition
Page Length 384
Publication Date 05 Dec 2017
Publisher Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing
Read Date Oct 2017
Rating 6.82792 stars – Golden Pip!

For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic…

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…

Is this trilogy possibly the greatest story of all time? So far, yes. Yes it is. Do not argue with me, I will fight you! *tapes up fists*

So, if you follow me on the twitter dot com, you may have noticed that I was a teeny bit happy to receive a copy of this. It was my first novel from Netgalley, and would be my 100th read of this year.

This is the second novel in The Winternight Trilogy, the first being The Bear and the Nightingale. I loved BEAR so much that I created a new rating for it, and gave it 6 out of 5 stars. (See my review here). So I went into this desperately hoping that it would live up to my expectations. Oh my, it did not disappoint!

GIRL picks up almost immediately following the end of BEAR. Vasya is no longer a child, but a grown woman. She has fled her town in fear after being labelled as a witch. Just her, and her loyal bestie Solovey (who happens to be a horse). She spends time travelling in the cold, harsh winter of northern Rus’ before finding her way to Moscow. Vasya is having to hide her gender, going by the name Vasilii Petrovich (the masculine form of her real name Vasilisa Petrovna). When in Moscow Vasya discovers a threat to the Grand Prince and the city as a whole. With the (hesitant) support from her brother Sasha (who we first met in BEAR), she works to save the city, it’s Grand Prince and it’s citizens.

”Why carve things of wood,” she asked him, “if you can make marvelous things of ice with only your hands?”
He glanced up. “God be with you Vasilisa Petrovna,” he said, with considerable irony. “Is that not what one says in the morning? I carve things of wood because things made by effort are more real than things made by wishing.”

So, what did I like about this? Pretty much everything. I’m not even exaggerating. Done, end of review. OK, maybe a little more.

GIRL has a more action/adventure feel than BEAR. There isn’t as much world-building as there was in BEAR, but it isn’t necessary – the world has already been established, and therefore this novel doesn’t feel like anything has been lost or is missing.

The chyerti (Russian folklore spirits) continue to appear in the story. Morozko continues to play a major part. I loved Morozko even more this time. He is such a good character. He is an immortal and powerful god, but he is also vulnerable. He has flaws, and I loved that!

We meet Marya, Vasya’s niece, and I fell in love almost immediately! I know, I am somewhat fickle, but she is so adorable. She is like a mini-Vasya. I swear to the gods, if we get a Marya/Vasya team up in the next novel, I will lose my mind! I will be completely unbearable! And I will make no apologies for it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

”Has no one ever told you to think before you do things?”
Marya squirmed. “No,” she said. “They tell me not to do things. But then I want to and I can’t help it. Sometimes nurse turns purple – that is best.”

Katherine Arden continues to write with skill that I can not help but read with great admiration. I am sure that there is an immense amount of effort that goes into writing something so complex and yet having it feel so effortless. I highlighted so many passages (73 in total) that I felt showed a level of writing that I hope to achieve. I tweeted this, but I will say it again, Katherine Arden inspires me to be a better writer.

I have tried to find things that I don’t like about this in order to try and write a balanced review. But honestly, I am really struggling to come up with anything at all. The book can feel slow in parts, which may not be for everyone. We still didn’t get the death that I wanted from the first book, I am tempted to just kill them myself. ha ha ha ha peace and love! I suppose the first couple of parts could be referred to as a slow burn. But I love that. I love a story with great characters that I can connect with, a plot that keeps me engaged and a world that has my mind eye glancing around in wonder. That is what you get with both this novel and BEAR. I love books that stir my emotions. Whilst reading this (and BEAR) I would be laughing in one moment, crying the next, frustrated (with a character) the next, and bouncing around with excitement and anticipation the next. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of a good story?! They are literally the perfect book for me.

”Are you a witch, Vasya?”
Her tongue felt thick; the vibration of men’s deaths still rang through her body. There were no more lies left in her, and no more half-truths.
“I do not know, little brother,” she said. “I do not know what a witch is, not really. But I have never meant anyone ill.”

If you like dark fantasy fairy tales inspired by folklore, do not hesitate to start this trilogy. Start with BEAR though, you need the world building and character establishing to get the full effect of GIRL. And if you have read BEAR and liked it, then do not hesitate to pick up this book. You will not be disappointed.

I wouldn’t normally consider a book to be in my top 5 all time faves without having reread it a couple of times and continued to enjoy it – but it would be a safe bet that this trilogy is probably going to be there soon (if not secretly already). I went to sleep smiling after reading this, and woke up still smiling.

Anyway, I’m off to carve wooden animal figures. Peace and Love.

I received a copy of this from Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher for this opportunity. This is my honest review.

LINKSGoodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Be my friend innit m8Goodreads | Twitter


  1. Hehehe… so psyched that you’re loving these books so much. I had to translate Solovey and had a little laugh when I saw it means nightingale.. logich! 😀 The chyerti sound cool as well.. and now I have a Russian curse in my head for the day- чорт повери…*chyort poverii* ‘The devil take it’.. very widely used in Estonia 🙂
    Seeing how much you love these books and having heard good things from others as well, I think I have to treat myself in the coming months…Will be a bit of a wait until the next book, I guess?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, Solovey does mean nightingale. This story is full of little things like that which I appreciated.
      I’m going to add ‘chyort poverii’ to my vocab and use it regularly now. I will appear intellectual, you see! 🙂
      Yea, probably some wait. BEAR came out in Jan 2017 (I think). GIRL comes out on 5th Dec and then we it’ll probably be end of 2018 at the earliest for the next book *sobs*. I think I read recently, maybe on twitter, that the author said she’s currently writing it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very much so! Luckily, I have the sort of memory whereby I can reread these next year, and I’ll remember almost nothing, so I can live the joy of them all over again! XD


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