The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)by Katherine Arden Published 08 Jan 2019
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Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.
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.
Advance praise for The Winter of the Witch
“Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy isn’t just good—it’s hug-to-your-chest, straight-to-the-favorites-shelf, reread-immediately good, and each book just gets better. The Winter of the Witch plunges us back to fourteenth-century Moscow, where old gods and new vie for the soul of Russia and fate rests on a witch girl’s slender shoulders. Prepare to have your heart ripped out, loaned back to you full of snow and magic, and ripped out some more.”—Laini Taylor
"The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)" Reviews
🌟 FULL REVIEW NOW POSTED HERE ON MY BLOG! 🌟
There are seven wonders in the world, and this book is all of them. Yet, those are still such pale, passive words for what this story was. The Winter of the Witch has just leapt forward to claim the title of Best Book I've Read Yet This Year.
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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend, who I don't deserve, but who has made my entire year - Lilly at Lair of Books!
1.) The Bear and the Nightingale ★★★★★
2.) The Girl in the Tower ★★★★★
“I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”
This is a hard review for me to write, because I think my heart doesn’t want to admit that this series is finally over. But it is, and this concluding book was everything I wanted. I cried, I felt gutted, I got my heart broken, but somehow Katherine Arden healed the pieces back together.
Where do I even begin to tell you what this story is about without spoiling anything with a review about the final book. This is a book about the bonds of family, blood and found, and doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. This is a book about religion and the beautiful and terrible things people are willing to do in the name of it. This is a book about all the different pieces that make a person, and how it is okay to love them all even if others won’t. But this is ultimately a book about a girl becoming the hero of her own story every single time, no matter who or what tries to block her path.
“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark.”
But I suppose The Bear and the Nightingale is a Russian inspired fantasy that stars a family living on the edge of the unforgiving Russian wilderness. And our main character grew up on fairy tales, but always hungered for more. And she soon realizes that maybe there was some truth in those tales, and she encounters a frost-demon named Morozko who makes magic a reality before her very eyes.
This story picks up right after the events of The Girl in the Tower in Moscow, and Konstantin Nikonvich’s vengeance knows no bounds. And a bear demon named Medved is happy to aid with the chaos in any way they possibly can. We also get to see Marya, Olga, Sasha, and Dmitrii on very different journeys through this pain and heartbreak. But we also get to see Vasya learn new things about herself and her ancestors, while even venturing into a new land unlike any other. And I truly think this concluding novel was damn close to perfection.
“You denied both the winter-king and his brother, didn’t you? You made yourself a third power in their war.”
Following Vasya, seeing her go to battle for Russia, go to battle for her family, go to battle for herself, has been a journey like none other that I’ve ever experienced while reading. Katherine Arden pulls from a lot of historical events and themes, but I’m convinced that this equal parts harrowing and heartening fairytale that she crafted is the real timeline that happened. I’ll be completely honest, this is a hard review to write, and not because it’s the last book in a series, but because I am in awe of what a damn masterpiece this entire story is. It doesn't even feel real that I have this story in my hands, that I get to read it, I get to love it, I get to experience this beautiful tale that feels so whimsical but so real. The actual blessings.
“Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.”
Overall, this is just one of my favorite trilogies of all time, and I think it always will be. This story just truly has every element that I’m in love with in literature; lyrical writing, winter setting, fae folks of all varieties, strong sibling bonds, heart wrenching romance, and girls becoming the hero of their story. Katherine Arden and this trilogy is a gift from a higher power and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content and trigger warnings for talk of death during childbirth, graphic animal death, graphic torture, graphic violence, sexual assault (unwanted touching), threat of rape, death, murder, blood depictions, slavery, captivity, and war themes.
Buddy read with Sissi, Lily, Hanaa, & Lilly! ❤
You know that feeling when you find a book that speaks to some deep part of your soul and you just want to shout:
‘THIS is why I read!’?
This folkloric trilogy has become that for me, reminding me of all the reasons why I love literature.
It’s not a secret that I loved the first two books in this deep-winter tale with the burning fire of a thousand suns. So you can imagine how much I needed this book in my hands, and also how stressful a thing it is to embark into the last instalment of a beloved series. The final book can make or break your opinion of the story as a whole. Am I jaded? Okay, maybe a little. I’ve been let down countless times by second and third book syndrome.
But I am thrilled to say that not only was it a most satisfying conclusion, but it exceeded my every hope. It was utter perfection from the first page until the last and I may go so far as to say it could be the strongest book of the three.
Just as with The Girl in the Tower, we pick up where the previous story ended and right out of the gate we are put through some very harrowing scenes. Goodness, they put me through a lot of anxiety. The stakes are so much higher this time around and from those first moments onward I could not look away - the story barrels onward at a relentless pace. And now we finally see the full scope that Arden intended. The culmination of everything she was building towards in the perfectly paced slow burn of The Bear and the Nightingale, and the riotous action of The Girl in the Tower. It feels seamless how it has all come together and I’m just so giddy with delight.
Our girl, Vasya, is no longer a just a plucky, naive child. From the ashes of the Moscow fire she has risen into a woman with incredible new strength in more ways than one. But of course she remains wonderfully flawed - her character has even more dimension than ever. Arden has shown how much she really knows her characters because they have truly carried this story and made it heart-wrenching in all the best ways. She can make you feel for even the most minor supporting characters with just a few lines.
I think Studio Ghibli fans will appreciate the whimsical details in this one. Think magical midnight roads, loveable forest spirits (hello new favourite sidekick character), man-beasts - but written for grownups. And yet this tale will bring out the childlike wonder in even the most grown up of grownups. It’s delightfully subversive too- it upends the age old tropes of princes winning maidens, of monsters being slain. So many mischievous plot twists I did NOT expect.
I was also not prepared at all for these f e e l i n g s. I am still filled to the brim with them. This book broke me, then slowly pieced me back together until I whooped with triumphant glee at the very end. And there is a certain PART that made me all asdkjfkslsjfks. You’ll know it when you get there. Just you wait.
As much as I’m dying to discuss the finer details, I really can’t spoil the fun. I know - I KNOW - we’re all waiting to hear if a certain Winter King makes a reappearance. All I can say is the scent of cold water and pine will forever make me swoon.
I gave this book a big, loving, emotionally exhausted hug when it was over. The ending was perfect and that is a rare thing so it probably shouldn’t be tampered with. BUT. I love these characters so damn much, my heart is crying for more more more of their adventures.
And that’s it. I can now wholeheartedly say: this, this is my favourite series of all time. If I could persuade you to read one thing, let this be it. You may just love it as much as I do.
“Beware the forest,” she added, following Vasya to the door. “It does not take kindly to strangers.”
It's over 😔. But it was most definitely a beautiful and fitting ending.
I've owned this book since it released on January 8, but I've been reluctant to start it. Partly because it was the final book, and partly because I was worried it wouldn't be as good as I'd been hoping it would be. But Arden didn't let me down. This finale was every bit as gorgeous and magical as the first two books.
My reviews for this series are starting to feel repetitive at this point, but I absolutely have to talk about the atmosphere. For me, it's what makes this trilogy so wonderful. The Winter of the Witch follows its predecessors by being a book of quiet whispers and cold breezes. It's that timeless fairy tale quality that I love so much.
But don't get me wrong-- there's plenty of action, too. In fact, this book starts pretty much in the thick of it with Vasya being chased down by the followers of the nefarious priest Konstantin. With Medved causing havoc left and right, and Vasya venturing into beautifully-imagined supernatural realms, this could be the most action-packed book of the series.
One of the things I like most about these books - and this one in particular - is how much Vasya grows as a character. I think it is one of the most interesting and convincing character arcs I've ever read about. She ages and gains hard-earned wisdom so naturally over the course of the three novels, and I feel strangely like I've grown up with her after following her story for the last few years.
As always, the fantastical is weaved in with the historical. Much is based on real historical events - such as the rapidly approaching Battle of Kulikovo - but, of course, a lot has been embellished too. I'm at least fairly certain that the frost demon Morozko wasn't falling into a complicated romance with a woman called Vasya in 14th century Russia, more's the pity.
Also: apparently frost demons are sexy. Who knew?
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it has been said that those who do not believe in magic will never find it, and this book is physical proof that magic does exist.
every page, every word, every letter made its way into my heart, which began to beat in a steady and strong rhythm of “i believe, i believe, i believe.”
this story, this trilogy, has woven itself into the very fabric of soul and will forever be a part of me. a truly captivating tale that has made me fall in love with reading all over again.
and as i have come to the conclusion of this wonderful story, i have realised what a joy and privilege it is to have such magic in my life.
↠ 5 stars
ALL THE STARS AND MORE.
Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Medieval Russia comes to life in Katherine Arden’s WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY, which began in Lesnaya Zemlya, a small village in northern Rus’ in The Bear and the Nightingale and continued in The Girl in the Tower. Vasilisa (Vasya) is a young woman with the rare ability to see and speak with the natural spirits or chyerti of the hearth, stables, and lands and waters of Rus’. Vasya has gained the attention and respect of the winter-king Morozko, god of death, who has helped her along the way as she fought and bound the demonic Bear, traveled from Lesnaya Zemlya to Moscow, and undertook a dangerous masquerade as a boy while fighting to protect Moscow and her family from both an evil sorcerer and the Mongol invaders.
The Winter of the Witch begins in the aftermath of a huge fire that burned much of Moscow. The distraught people of Moscow are whipped into a rage by Vasya’s nemesis, the priest Konstantin, who blames Vasya for the fire (with some justice). Vasya is captured by a mob and nearly burned to death as a witch. Though she escapes, a tragic loss leaves her reeling, and now a terrible price has been paid on her behalf. The Bear is on the loose again, pulling Konstantin into his plans for war and chaos, and Morozko has disappeared into some hidden prison. The vast Tatar armies, the Golden Horde, are still on the move against Moscow, and Vasya has perilous journeys to make through magical midnight lands as she tries to save her country and the humans and spirits that she loves. Vasya has gained in personal strength and magical power from her beginnings in the village of Lesnaya Zemlya, but she still makes some serious mistakes along the way.
In the WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY, Arden has proved herself particularly adept at weaving together folklore and actual history. The Winter of the Witch focuses on the events leading up to the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380, but puts a fantastical spin on it. As the country lurches toward war, Vasya is guided into the midnight realm of Polunochnitsa, or Lady Midnight, where she meets not only one of her ancestors ― a famous Russian folklore character in her own right ― but the mythical firebird, Pozhar (whose other form is a golden mare), and a delightfully opinionated mushroom spirit that Vasya called Ded Grib (Grandfather Mushroom). Pozhar and Ded Grib represent the high and the lowly among the chyerti, whom Vasya is trying to protect along with the humans who inhabit Russia. Even Medved, the fearsome Bear who played such a terrifying role in The Bear and the Nightingale, becomes more understandable and sympathetic, or at least much more entertaining as a character. It’s a nice reminder that even villains have some positive characteristics.
He spoke of Russia. Not of Muscovy, or Tver, or Vladimir, the principalities of the sons of Kiev, but of Russia itself, of its skies and its soil, its people and its pride.The tensions between Christianity and the old pagan ways, humans vs. chyerti, are ultimately resolved in a way that I hadn’t expected, but that I found profoundly moving, and Arden’s writing style is entrancing. The Winter of the Witch is not just the coming-of-age story of a girl with magical powers, or a romance, though it has both of those elements; it deals with larger themes, like love of country, individual worth, self-sacrifice, and cooperation with those who are different. The WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY was a wonderful series from beginning to end, and I give it my highest recommendation.
She listened in rapt silence, eyes vast and filled like cups with shadow. “That is what we are fighting for,” said Sasha. “Not for Moscow, or even Dmitrii; not for the sake of any of her squabbling princes. But for the land that bore us, man and devil alike.”
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review. Thank you so much!!
Initial update: Five stars! SO, so good!! Amazing wrap-up to this fantasy trilogy set in medieval Russia. I love how this weaves Russian folklore into actual history, and deals with larger themes, like love of country.
Plus it made me cry.
If you haven't read this trilogy yet, I highly recommend it!
Initial post: YES! I finally got the ARC of this last book in this trilogy (which began with The Bear and the Nightingale)!! Now can I keep my hands off it for a couple of weeks while I read a few other books in my urgent TBR pile? We'll see ...
Content notes: a fair amount of gritty violence and a non-explicit sex scene.