The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.
What a great end to this amazing series! The Winter of the Witch was everything I hoped it would be. It answered all my questions, gave my favorite characters good arcs and development, fleshed out the magic a bit more, and went in a completely different direction than I was expecting!
My absolute favorite thing about this final installment was the return of Konstantine as a major player. I love Konstantine, by which I mean I find him completely fascinating, because obviously I hate him. He is so moody, conflicted, and hypocritical! While he starts book one with the best (if not holiest) of intentions, by this book he has decided there is no God and he’s just going to do him. And he makes some EEEEEVIL decisions! But… he’s not all evil. I love his conflict, and I think he makes for a fascinating antagonist.
My least favorite thing about this book was the absence of my favorite character, Solovey, Vasysa’s horse. I won’t tell you why Solovey was absent, but I just missed his voice, sense of humor, and warmth.
The magic Vasya has lived with for her whole life finally gets fully fleshed out and explained in this book. Thank goodness! I loved how simple it was! So simple, in fact, that Vasya can’t quite wrap her mind around it at first, and discovers its power completely on accident. But it was very unique, and deeply tied with Russian paganism. Of course.
I also enjoyed how this final installment started to really connect with the historical Russia. I didn’t realize while reading books one and two that it is set in a specific year, and that the Grand Prince, Dmitrii, was a real person. But as this tale becomes more politically involved, the real events start to come into the forefront. Y’all know I’m a sucker for historical fantasy, so I ate this up.
I still like The Bear and the Nightingale the best of the three books in the Winternight Trilogy, and I was reading this one I finally figured out why. The Bear and the Nightingale reads like a fairy tale, especially in terms of pacing and mood. It’s atmospheric and lyrical. The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch both take on a more epic feel. They’re both more sweeping, have more political intrigue, and are on a grander scale. There’s more characters, things are intertwined and interconnected. Which is amazing, especially when well done. But it’s just a preference thing for me. Fairy tale fantasies are my favorite.
This is a series I so highly recommend! If you haven’t given The Bear and the Nightingale a try, you SHOULD! If you have and you liked it, definitely finish the trilogy.