15th January, 2018

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (Del Rey Books)

For those of you who have the read the rest of this blog, it will be clear that I ardently admired the first two instalments of the Winternight Trilogy and so it will not come as a surprise when I tell you that I also loved part three. Even though it was tremendously hard to say good-bye to Vasya and her story, I think that Arden's trilogy finale might actually be the best book in the series. While part one was a fascinating slow burner and part two was full of fast-paced adventure, this last instalment brings both of that together.

"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." (Goodreads synopsis)

What I loved about this conclusion to the Winternight Trilogy was its grace and, once more, its beautifully dark rendering of folkloric elements. We have an amazing and feisty heroine, the seemingly never-ending conflict between past traditions and new beliefs, epic battles and we have Morozko! Have you ever come across a more versatile and enigmatic demon? 

Again, this is essentially a quest narrative as Vasya is journeying into the dark realms of Midnight and beyond, and again we witness her evolving, struggling and being faced with heart-wrenching decisions.  Arden again manages to build an immersive atmosphere that the reader can get lost in as her beautiful poetic prose just draws you right in. Magical moments and mythical creatures then provide the perfect backdrop for Vasya's development, while her and Morozko's weirdly twisted but yet tender relationship lends an additional dynamic to the story.

This book made me sit anxiously on the edge of my seat, it made me weep, it made me gasp, it made me shout out loud in frustration (not because of the book itself but because of the loss of beloved characters that tore my heart out and left it a blubbering mess in the dust). It's an outstanding example in successfully mixing a cast of extraordinary characters with haunting landscapes and the fascinating heritage of Russian history and folklore.

The Winter of the Witch is a gratifying conclusion to a wonderful series that has the potential to become a literary classic.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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