The concluding book in Katherine Arden’s Winternight series and in my opinion the best of the trio! It’s rare when a series improve with time and telling but this one does.
It takes off right after the events at the end of Book 2 - The Girl in the Tower and hurtles down a path of tortuous and unrelenting danger where trust and friendship are scarce, and sacrifice demanded with every breath. Arden refines her writing and plotting from the previous two books, to weave an intricate, layered narrative, that brings together all the main characters in a believable and fitting conclusion to the tale. I particularly love Vasya’s character development - her will to survive in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and her love for her family. The bond between Sasha, Olya and Vasya is especially dear to my heart because it is exactly the bond I share with my brother who passed away a decade ago this day. A very personal, intimate connect for me with this book therefore.
Arden’s writing has that haunting quality (akin to Madeline Miller and Diane Setterfield), that does justice to the image of untamed Russia that I’ve imagined in my head since the beginning of the series - wild, mysterious, brooding, somber and utterly enchanting! She brings to life for me on the page, especially in Midnight!
I’m left with the usual bittersweet feeling I always have when I’ve just finished a book I love and have to leave a world I’ve loved to inhabit! I look forward to re-reading this in the future and losing myself once again in wild Russia. Highly recommended!
What a conclusion! Katherine Arden wins my heart again with this epic conclusion. I have cried and hugged the book hard, and begged to the Gods for mercy. I have also swooned and sighed, read and reread paragraphs.
I agree that I didn’t know what to expect from this conclusion, but Arden surprised me in the most unusual ways.
Since this is the third and final book of the trilogy, there might be spoilers from the first two books.
Vasya has just emerged from a tragedy. She has also lost the love of her life and is recovering from nasty physical injuries.
The people of Moscow want Vasya to burn, but its not the witch that will urn. Its the city and with that the men in power. Vasya has made certain difficult choices, but this time there won’t be second chances. But she needs to survive and she needs some serious help.
The plot is full of ups and downs and just when you start to get disappointed, the story takes a flip. A lot of us expected Vasya and Morozko to come together as a unit, but I am so happy to see that Vasya is at the center and it is she who controls the story throughout. I loved every bit of this boo, including certain gruesome deaths (which made me sad too).
As this is the third and the concluding novel in the Winternight trilogy, I might slip up and there might be some spoilers so keep that in mind going into this review.
From the first book which was enchanting and absolutely magical to the second book which showed such strength and growth in Vasya to the concluding novel which saw Vasya truly coming into her own. It was such an amazing journey for me because Katherine Arden’s writing is simply brilliant.
In this one, we see Vasya just barely surviving from the trauma of the previous book’s happenings, we see her enduring such grief and we also see her becoming a witch, owning up to her true powers. We also see a return of the brothers Medved and Morozko. After the events of The Bear and the Nightingale and the fiasco of The Girl in the Tower, Medved truly had a chance to shine in this one. The complex and cunning natuer of Medved was truly a treat to read.
Then we come to Morozko. Oh, I have so many thoughts about this one. I really love Morozko as a character and to a certain extent, I even appreciated Vasya and Morozko’s relationship but it sometimes felt a bit unnecessary? Maybe it’s just me who wishes there was no need for the romance to be given as much importance as all that. I am sure many people will disagree with me on this point because for once the romance truly wasn’t the end all and be all of the story. You see why I have such mixed feelings on this one?
Continuing from the second book, we see Moscow on fire, the dead are walking again and amidst all that, Vasya has been forced to go into Midnight. Midnight where she could take a break from her hardships, take a breath but soon Vasya learns that Midnight wasn’t without its own dangers. There she learns about her mother and her lineage and there she friends some allies as well.
Despite wanting to stay there, Vasya knows that she was needed out in Moscow, if not for the people of Moscow then for her family. And so she left Midnight and set out to conquer her part of the world by coming into her own, by wrangling help on her own terms and trust me that was glorious to read.
From themes of religion to having agency of her own in medieval Russia, The Winter of the Witch truly is a marvel. Even thought I cribbed about the romance, it is still done really well. I just really genuinely enjoy this series, okay? And I am sad that it’s over but absolutely happy at the way it ended.
Though initially, somewhat half way through the book, i was kind of bored to be honest but the book had me at its grips thereafter. Vasya has become a woman with opinions she is confident enough to voice. Unlike other fantasy novels, this one does not have the breathtaking magic but the existence of it in plain sight, which were thought to be folklore and fairytales.