Monday, February 12, 2018

The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower
Katherine Arden

I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

A few notes: It was an exciting day when an ARC of this book came in the mail because I couldn't wait to dig right in. But I had a few other books lined up first and few months before the release so I pushed it off... and right into my reading slump. Sadly I couldn't bring the ARC with me to London, but I did have a copy on my kindle and was able to read a finished copy. I also want to make clear that the rating for this falls a lot closer to 4.5 than 5, because this has been the first book this year to make my heart rage and love and cry this much.

I read an early copy of the first book two years ago and had really high hopes that came crashing down. Definitely check out my prior review to get the details, but my big issues really had to do with characters not feeling filled out enough and the fairy tale aspects falling short. One hundred percent, this book remedies all those problems very quickly. Part of that has to do with the smaller scale of characters with point of view chapters and part of it has to do, I think, with the author having really firm footing in this setting now.

Besides Vasya we follow her siblings Sasha and Olga a bit more as the narrative revolves around Moscow and the events therein. While I would say all three are changed and grown characters (or, in Vasya's case, growing) since leaving them in book one, they're definitely the better for it. They're more interesting, more sure of themselves on the page, and more fleshed out as well. Sasha particularly has benefited as a character whom I really, really love now. Vasya herself is the main point of contact for the readers and while I had problems connecting in book one my heart beat in step with hers throughout her entire journey here. I also learned to love and appreciate Morozko and Solovey, two characters I wanted more from in the previous book.

The historical setting also felt more fleshed out and realistic, partly because, since it was a finished copy I read, there was an author's note and an index in the back which I could refer to. This is definitely a must if you only know glancing facts about Russia during this time because their political system is very different than many would be familiar with. 

Plot, too, was a huge step up. It was definitely action packed, but the real climaxes revolved around completely emotional moments that were delivered with such clear punches that I could not put this one down. I will say it meanders a bit in the beginning, but unlike with book one, it meanders in a good way, setting a pace that brings it to its conclusion without tipping us off too early about what might happen.

Yet the entire time I read I did feel a sense of fear and dread hanging over me as I waited for it to fall into the pitfalls book one didn't avoid. This was certainly a personal issue, but I've become a wary reader of late, and even though the book avoided them deftly I was never completely secure in knowing I would enjoy the ride, which is why I can't give it five full stars. I will recommend this to everyone who read book one, though, whether you liked it or not, because it's one of those rare sequels that surpasses the prior in a series.
TL;DR Perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas who are looking for something to play with their feelings, this book is filled with beautiful writing set against a fairy tale filled version of historical Russia. All the problems I had with book one were washed away and it's a sequel worth reading whether you liked the first or not.

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.
Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.
Born in Texas, Katherine attended Middlebury College, where she studied French and Russian literature. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, and is fluent in both French and Russian. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she spent time guiding horse trips while writing The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.
Book cover linked to Goodreads. Book cover, author info, and description taken from Goodreads.
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  1. I need to try this series! I've not even read the first one yet, but I love fairytales and Russian literature so it would probably suit me well :-)

    Stephanie Jane @ Literary Flits

    1. Yes you'd definitely like it then! It does a good job of mixing actual historical moments and people and settings with fairy tale elements.

  2. I recently read and enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale. I really want to pick up this sequel, but don't want to too early because then I will have to wait for the third book. Glad to see that you think this one was even better than the first.

    1. Trust me I know the pain. Last night I was lamenting the fact that I can't read Winter of the Witch (which, by the way, have you seen that absolutely gorgeous cover??) for a year!


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