The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

wotwThe Winter of the Witch
Author Katherine Arden
Publisher Del Rey| 2019
Pages 384
historical fiction | fantasy

5 stars

 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. (from Goodreads)

Warning: This review contains slight, slight spoilers for the first two books of the Winternight Trilogy. 

Where do I even start? There are not enough words to describe how much I loved this book. An absolute perfect conclusion to a fantastically beautiful trilogy; I’m so sad to see it end but so happy with the ending. It’s actually surprising to me that this has become one of my all-time favorite series considering it took me almost three-fourths of the way through The Bear & the Nightingale before it really picked up for me. I was really only interested in Vasya and Morozko at that point, so you would think that the time they spent apart in this book would bother me, but I was hooked throughout its entirety and none of it felt slow. 

“‘I have been running through the dark, trying to save all who have need of me. I have done good and I have done evil, but I am neither. I am only myself.'”

My heart is not big enough to contain the love and adoration I have for Vasya Petrovna. She is such an absolute GEM of a character. Her determination and her strength in the face of life’s harshest obstacles is what makes her one of the best female characters I’ve ever read. She stays true to herself while also adapting to the power that grows inside of her and accepts the parts of herself that are not wholly good. Her pure heart draws people, animals, spirits and winter-kings to her beck and call and it is a joy to read about.

“Death was someone she knew.”

SPEAKING OF WINTER-KINGS, oh my god. Vasya and Morozko were amazing in this book. After everything they’ve been through, they finally recognize their places in each others’ lives and Morozko lets his guard down for her again and again. AND I MEAN CAN WE TALK ABOUT CHAPTER 17?!?!?!? I DIED. Vasya has grown so confident in herself and her newfound power that it makes their dynamic even more compelling. I was 1000 percent pleased with the reveal that sets up the rest of Vasya’s life and it didn’t feel at all out of the box. I cannot express in words how happy I am with their ending. 

“‘I am damned already,’ Vasya said. ‘By every law of God and man. But I do not wish to be alone.'”

There are so many other great relationships throughout this series. Vasya’s connection to Solovey is so pure and wholesome and their companionship is evident in every page of this book. But I have a special place in my heart for the bond between Vasya and Sasha. I loved Sasha in the first book and was so sad that he left halfway through, but was thrilled when he became a bigger character in The Girl in the Tower, and his presence in The Winter of the Witch included some of his best moments yet. They are each others’ closest sibling and their love shines through every interaction they have, even when they’re angry with one another. No matter what, they would walk through fire for each other, and one of my favorite moments of this book was this exchange between them:

“‘I despised myself, that I had let my sister face such horror alone, and I despised myself when you appeared again at my campfire so changed. I am not letting you go alone.’
Vasya put a hand on her brother’s arm. ‘Then, if you come with me tonight–‘ Her grip tightened; their eyes met. ‘I warn you, the road leads through darkness.’
Sasha said, ‘Then we will go through darkness, sister.'”

This series is so rich in Russian folklore and Arden has such a grasp on every one of the spirit creatures that Vasya encounters. I truly loved Ded Grib and Pozhu in this and uh also THE BEAR?!?!!? Arden’s story arc for him was FANTASTIC. This book added so many new layers to his character and I loved every second of it. Konstantin is just as evil as he’s been in the other two books. I honestly can’t recall many another villains who I’ve despised as much as I have him. Every time he shows up on the page, I just get immensely creeped out and he is just a dirty, terrifying person. Hate him forever, bye. 

I cannot recommend this series enough. I spent the last twenty pages crying but it was WORTH IT. It was a beautiful experience from start to finish and I can’t wait to dive back into this series again someday. Vasya, Morozko, Sasha and Solovey will forever have a little nook in my heart. Please, please please please read these books. Then come cry about them with me. 


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