Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)
The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) 
Del Rey, 2019
Hardcover. 384 pages.

About The Winter of the Witch:

"'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."

*Although I will have no spoilers for this book itself, this review will have potential spoilers for the previous two books in the trilogy. 

I've been struggling a little to write this review because all I want to do is gush and ramble all over this book, but I'll do my best to be coherent. Hands down, this is one of the best trilogies I've read in a long, long time and it will stay with me for a long time. It will be one I recommend to anyone and everyone and that I will continue to re-read over the years (probably during the winter months, of course).

The Winter of the Witch is heart-breaking in every sense of the word, in both positive and devastating ways, and it's full of captivating prose and such a tight plot that it's impossible not to be completely sucked into the story. Arden's world-building is phenomenal and it seems as though just when I think I've seen as much as I can about this world or the magical aspects, there's always more and I'm constantly learning about the lore and hidden magical elements and characters at play. I honestly could not put this book down. The action is incredible and written in such a way that I was never bored or weary of the more excitement-driven parts of the book.

I love Vasya more than I've loved a character in a long time. It initially surprised me at times by how much I was drawn to her because she has a lot of qualities that I generally become tired of in books--impulsive, makes rash decisions, etc.--and yet I wanted nothing more than to keep her safe and happy. Vasya is incredibly impulsive and consistently does things that seem completely irrational and unsafe, but the reason she does all of these things is due to her own strong morals, which is what truly cements her character. She has a strong will that refuses to be pulled into darkness or evil; she has a desire to protect people and to instill justice and goodness into the areas she visits. It's not that she's someone who is steadfast and follows the rules, because she certainly does not follow the rules, but rather she will do whatever is necessary to follow the things that she feels are right and just. I have loved watching her grow from this awkward, unhappy child that saw no future for herself  because she didn't want to get married and into her own independent person and who refuses to let anyone take away her freedom and values.

Morozko continues to be a fascinating figure, and his relationship with Vasya has been one of the most compelling and unpredictable ones I've read in some time. There are so many different components to their relationship, and Vasya and Morzoko's own personalities even have a very basic trope element at their core, but somehow this ends up being so much more developed than one could hope for. Morozko himself is a very complex figure that constantly tugged at my attention and I loved that I was still able to explore more about him, even in the last book. We also get to see more of Vasya's brother, Sasha, and I appreciated his character arc so much in this book. Arden made me go back and forth between liking, disliking, and being unsure of him at so many moments, but by the end of it he stayed as true to character as I always expected of him and I was immensely pleased with that.

A minor thing that I also want to comment on is the dialogue, which I've found particularly well done throughout the entire trilogy. The historical tone is consistent at all times--something that many authors tend to struggle with--and it still remained fresh and captivating at the same time. Arden's usage of Russian terms also felt natural and expected and never felt as though it was forced just for effect as some books tend to do.

Arden's writing is something so rare and so deceptively perfect. She is not overt or obvious in her descriptions or prose, but there is an elegance and quiet beauty that accompany each and every line of the story. The themes that are interwoven throughout the events of this book are thought-provoking and carefully done, from dealing with the struggle of figuring out who you are to more contemporary themes and those associated with traditional folklore. The blend of true historical fact with the magical is something that I love.

Also, I need to talk about the horses. Solovey is everything to me and my heart was in such an emotional state throughout this book because of events surrounding him. I also love Pozhar and am so pleased that Arden never turned her into something she isn't, which also speaks to the respect that Arden has for all of her characters and their desires.

Overall, it's an obvious five stars from me. I could continue reading about these characters and this world forever, but I'm more than satisfied with this trilogy and cannot recommend it highly enough. If you haven't yet started it, be sure to do so! It's a perfect winter read.

*I received a copy of The Winter of the Witch courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

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