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    A wonderfully dark fairytale

    I absolutely loved this book! Ever since I finished The Girl in the Tower, I have been eager to read the next chapter in Vasya's story. I went into this book with incredibly high expectations and I have to say that this book was even better than I could have hoped for. There is just something magical about this trilogy. This was a book that I found almost impossible to set aside. I just had to know how things would work out for Vasya, her family, and all of Russia. I found that this story was really able to touch me emotionally and I had a fantastic time reading it. The Winter of the Witch is the final book in the Winternight trilogy which really must be read in order. This book does pick up shortly after the events of the previous book by throwing the reader right back into the action. If I had to find one thing to criticize about this book, it would be that this book does not take the time to refresh the reader's memory of the events from the previous installments. Since it has been over a year since I read the previous book, it did take me a moment or two to really remember the details regarding what had been happening with Vasya. Vasya is a wonderful character and I have found it a joy to watch her develop and really find herself over the course of the trilogy. She seems to be ready to take on the world in this book. She is strong and has proven herself worthy of being a leader. She is also compassionate and mourns the ones she has lost and works to protect others often at her own risk. She does expect others with power to also do what needs to be done even if it comes with significant risk and does not hold back her opinion when she thinks that they are not doing enough. This book was exciting. I worried about the safety of Vasya and the other characters quite often since there are a lot of dangerous situations in the book. Vasya has really embraced her powers by the end of the book and I had a great time seeing everything she was capable of doing. I also loved all of the magical creatures that were a part of Vasya's world. The Winter King, the Bear, Midnight, and even a mushroom king all played important and sometimes surprising roles in this wonderful story. I thought that the writing was beautiful. I felt like I was carried away by the words as I read this book. There was a wonderful flow to the story and I think that the writing added to the overall beauty of the story. This story made me feel a lot of things. I was nervous and worried about the characters at times and smiled in joy when things worked out. I felt pain when things went horribly wrong and had tears of joy when things went oh so right. The story is dark and it is often violent but it was always beautiful. I would highly recommend this trilogy to others. I was swept away by this dark fairytale of a story and loved every moment of it. I must say that this book brought everything to a fantastic conclusion and the ending was even better than I could have hoped. This is a trilogy that I plan to revisit many times in the future. I can't wait to see what Katherine Arden writes next! I received a digital review copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Del Ray via NetGalley.
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    Powerful, epic fantasy with strong characters

    Originally posted on Tales to Tide You Over I have enjoyed this series from the start because it sweeps you away into the time of Russia’s transition between old religions and new with all the conflicts and difficulties that involves. Arden brings the chyerti, old peoples, to life while balancing questions of faith, magic, and personhood in a grand adventure with both darkness and amazing discovery. It encompasses a world between times and a battle much bigger than all but a few could realize. The Winter of the Witch is no exception. It is the perfect culmination of what came before and offers both a harder road and a better solution than I anticipated, leaving me with regrets only because it is the final book in the series. For those of you who wait until a series is complete, now’s your chance to explore a culturally enthralling tale with deep questions to ponder. I cling to a slight hope, though, of a companion novel as Vasya has more adventures ahead of her. This book contains two intertwined arcs, but the first ends long before the book does. It could have made for a satisfying conclusion all on its own, but when the second arc takes command of the book, it brings the story to a stronger, deeper end stretching all the way back to The Bear and the Nightingale. The story centers on Vasya as did the previous ones, but she is much more than the wild girl she begins the series as or the witch the Muscovites believe her to be. The chyerti know. They see her potential even when she’s blind to it, but she’s not so blind that she refuses to see when the world depends on her waking up to her role. Nor is she the only complex character. Whether human or not, the characters live by their own rules, beliefs, and expectations. Some are ghosts, others mushrooms, but they have their own lives. Seeing Vasya navigate between them and her own expectations is fascinating. Her efforts don’t come without a cost though, and sometimes she’s not the one called to pay it. This is a novel where actions have consequences. Power does not equal blamelessness with the cost in madness or regret at the very least. There are many powerful moments in the book, often around the complexity of the characters, whether it’s the mad priest revealing his doubts and grief in art capable of swaying the Bear, or the gift Vasya gives to Morozko, the Winter King, and what he offers her in the end. The narrative is one of learning and growing in acceptance. It clashes with both devil stories, and the purity of those who follow the new god and cast down the old. It raises questions about those rules that come from humanity not divine and yet are enforced as though from a greater source. This is not a binary world but one that recognizes good and evil in all things with none innately one or the other. Everything has the ability to choose between the two. It’s beautiful and far from easy as the characters struggle with that ability when circumstances pull them to one side or the other. There’s the same uneasy relationship between old and new traditions with some able to recognize it while others attempt to paint their opponents on either side as evil and never look further. It’s not just the message that draws me though. The events work out through careful seeding, sometimes allowing me to predict and other times surprising me but in an “of course” sort of way. This speaks to the immersion where the logic of the world is so stable it avoids the easy solution for the right one and makes that choice real to the reader as much as the characters. Reading the afterword, it’s fascinating to see how Arden blended actual events into the story so seamlessly. This feels like the real answer to questions still being debated by historians. I’m glad I didn’t know the history beforehand because anticipation, good and bad, would have stripped away some of the tension. Also, since I noted the issues with many POVs in my last review, I need to say Arden similarly uses many perspectives, but they work to tie the different happenings together, building the web in which they’re all entangled, rather than abandoning the other characters. The book brought me to tears, both of joy and loss. It’s not a simple, or comfortable, read, but that’s only true because the characters came to life and made their grief or wonder my own. I’ll miss the time I spent in this Russia, but I leave it satisfied both in the story and the state the characters have achieved. P.S. I received this copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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