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review 2018-03-07 16:35
The Girl in the Tower
The Girl in The Tower - Katherine Arden

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

This is the direct sequel to “The Bear and the Nightingale”, and resumes where the latter left off, following both Sasha and Vasya from that point onwards.

I’m a little torn about this book. While still calling upon Russian folklore and legends, these didn’t play as much of a part as they did in the first book, and I was a little disappointed to see them take the backburner. (Morozko was still here, but I don’t know if it was so good for him, all things considered when it comes to the ending.) Paradoxically, this time, I also liked that the focus shifted more towards city politics, with the characters having to grapple with ‘what consequences will our actions have in the grand scheme of things’, for instance Dimitrii re: the Golden Horde. And that, I think, ties into one of the big themes of the story, a.k.a it’s well and all to want your independence, but finding ways to achieve it with minimum damage should be part of your focus as well.

It followed that I liked Vasya less in this second instalment. On the one hand, I sympathised with her plea of not wanting a life where she’d be locked up in the terem most of the year, and forbidden to do what she loved (riding Solovey, for instance) because ‘it didn’t become a woman’. Because not having a choice is the lot of most people, doesn’t mean we have to always accept it meekly without fighting (I mean, if everybody did that, we’d still work 14 hours a day and send children to the factory at 12 or something, I suppose); and that she’d see her niece doomed to the same kind of fate was painful. On the other hand, more than in the first volume, Vasya’s desire to travel and not live under restraint like her sister caused even more problems, likely because of the stupid ways she often approached this, and/or completely ignored any other character’s warnings. One extremely obvious example: if you aim at passing for a boy, cut your hair first thing, don’t just hide it under a hood. I think this is one detail that kept baffling me every time Vasya’s hair was mentioned, because it was so illogical to me. Getting giddy with the feeling of freedom and making mistakes? Okay, understandable. But other problems could’ve been avoided with a little common sense.

I’m interested in the third book, to see how all this will unfold, but I definitely hope Vasya will have learnt from her mistakes this time.

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review 2018-02-18 00:00
The Bear and the Nightingale
The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden 4.5 stars...

The only reason I didn't give it the full 5 stars is because I don't think we as the readers are given a complete enough background on the the Russian fairy tales, their characters, and the second sight (we're told they see demons), so I felt like I was trying to piece things together more then what should be necessary toward the beginning. There is a dictionary at the end which of course was a little too late in coming for me. It would have been nice to have that at the beginning.

*I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads FirstReads giveaway but my review is solely my own. Thank you Goodreads!
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review 2018-02-18 00:00
The Girl in The Tower
The Girl in The Tower - Katherine Arden I loved this second book! I thought it was better then the first. I read the dictionary after book one and had a much clearer understanding of the fairytale characters.
I enjoyed the storyline and the part Vasya played in this book a little more too. I'm looking forward to reading book three to see if Vasya finds her way and a place in her world.

Note: There's also a dictionary at the end of this book. It's not as necessary as it was in book 1 but I still recommend reading it first.
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review 2018-02-07 00:00
The Girl in The Tower
The Girl in The Tower - Katherine Arden I tore into this book right after the first, and it delivered.

A+, extremely solid character development of Vasya and her family. LOVE seeing that her siblings are all very good at what they do -- warrior politics monk or mother and princess holding her family's reputation and fortunes together carefully, both Sasha and Olga were extremely competent, fully rounded humans, and you can a really common thread between the siblings. What is presented as making Vasya special and powerful is also present in her siblings here, even if they are different people who made different choices.

(Also, I loved all the parallels between Olga and their mother. Wonderful.)

I LOVED that everyone's choices have CONSEQUENCES. I love the emphasis on choice -- the mother or the daughter? piotr or vasya? vasya and morozko. vasya and kasyan, etc.

Loved the world building here. This Moscow is a completely different setting than Vasya's forest home, and it's just as richly drawn.

SPEAKING OF KASYAN, I loved him. I love how he echos her initial fiance -- laughing, proud, with something angry. I love how he's fascinated with Vasya because of her spirit, but it's still easy to see that he's broken by his own past. That bit about the tricks and the lies and the passion? Wow, lemme tell you, I loved it, but it was also easy to see why that wouldn't work for Vasya, but also see another path, another Vasya it would work for.

I can't get over how much I love the plotline with Morozko sliding between humanity and immortality, how badly Vasya reacts to the bit with the sapphire in Moscow and how ENTIRELY IN CHARACTER for both of them it was. Delightful. Can absolutely not wait for the next book, it's killing me here.

ALSO, the whole bit where Uncle Vasya takes his niece riding through town? It's wonderful.
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review 2018-02-07 00:00
The Bear and the Nightingale
The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden I loved this book so so much.

First, I love how this author fleshes out all her characters. Even Konstantine the deeply obnoxious priest and Anna the evil step mother are extremely understandable and sympathetic. They're more awful because of the wasted potential in them -- especially Anna, whose fear of her own sight is so contrasted to Vasya and her mother.

I'm also a sucker for a folkloric setting, and boy howdy, this one delivered. Solid, a+ there. I love seeing Vasya stepping up, looking after her family and her people and holding the household spirits togeather with grit and grim determination. Her care for *her* people is palpable, and that that care includes the household spirits themselves is also extremely apparent.

Also, perhaps it's just because I spent today tromping through snow outside under an extremely blue and cold sky, but the way winter and the weather is talked about hit so close to home, I knew *exactly* what kind of frost or snow they were talking about every time it changed. Beautiful.

I love the different POVs for this story, particularly Vasya's father's. One of the things this book hits out of the park is familial relationships. Vasya and her brothers, Vasya and her father, Vasya and her sisters, her siblings with each other -- they're all so, so well drawn. The way you can love your sibling and want only the best for them and still not really understand each other and get along.
I also love seeing the loss of Sasha to the church through Piotr's eyes, how he's evaluating his children and trying to find them safe and happy lives that suit their talents.

Even with the multiple POVs, I didn't feel like this story was confusing or poorly paced -- all the povs and snippets came together like a puzzle. In the final stretch of the book you can feel all the pieces snapping into place and you don't like the look of the completed puzzle, but that's still the only place this piece fits. I tore through this novel like a freight train due to this masterful use of tension.

OH BOY, MOROZKO, boy howdy. Talk about building the tension right with *that* one! I love him.
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