Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.
A couple of years ago, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katharine Arden was featured by Amazon as a “Best Book of the Month” or “Best Debut” or some such thing. It was advertised as a kind of literary Russian fairy tale, set in the actual historical medieval Russia. I love fairy tales. I like Russia; I took a few semesters of Russian language in college (don’t remember a thing). It sounded neat, so I gave it a shot.
I’m so glad that I did. I adored that book. It was billed as the first part of a trilogy (The Winternight Trilogy), so I waited not-so-patiently for my next fix of goodness. The sequel, The Girl in the Tower, came out last year, and I loved it too.
The third and final book of the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, was recently released. I bought it quickly and finished it in a weekend. It’s wonderful.
It’s tough to review a book that’s the third of a trilogy without spoilers — *rolls up sleeves* — but I’m going to give it a shot and try to provide you guys with the maximum of helpful info without revealing anything that might spoil your enjoyment of the trilogy.
For those that have not read any of the Winternight Trilogy yet:
First, you should read The Bear and the Nightingale first, followed by The Girl in the Tower, followed by The Winter of the Witch. You really shouldn’t start with The Winter of the Witch. The best comparison I can think of is to the original Star Wars trilogy. Just as you wouldn’t start watching that series with Return of the Jedi, so you should not start this series with Witch.
This series is absolutely worth a read. The prose is gorgeous. The characters are interesting, original, and recognizably human. Their actions are driven not by the plot but by their natures. And for those wanting to avoid a Lost trap (or Kingkiller/Ice and Fire quagmire), know that (1) this book wraps up the series in (2) a satisfying way. It is safe for you to pick up!
Well, it’s safe for you to pick up if you like strong female characters, pagan gods, magic, witches, winter, Russia, history, the impact of Christianity on all of that, and/or a fun, well-written story of an unusual fairy-tale adventure that has some tense, emotional moments. It’s not exactly the same as other books that I’ve read before — points for originality! — but if you liked Uprooted, The Language of Thorns, or Stardust, you’ll very probably at least kind of enjoy this!
For those that have read the other books in the trilogy:
Dude, what are you waiting for? Don’t you want to know how the story ends? This book picks up right where The Girl in the Tower ended. It’s more action-oriented than the others, with the protagonist a little less conflicted than in the other books. It feels more adventurey instead of charactery, but that’s ok. It’s the last book. Time to get stuff done. The author doesn’t do anything insanely different with this book than the previous entries in the series. She writes a little more cleanly — and the action-sequences pack a little more punch than some of her earlier tries at doing that — but its generally the same sort of style as the previous entries.
My rating: 5 Stars