Friday, February 22, 2019

The Girl in the Tower - Katherine Arden

Summary: The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues 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. (Summary and pic from

My Review:  The first book in this series, The Bear and the Nightingale, was very much in the modern fairytale genre. I enjoyed the taking of old Russian folk tales and making them into a cohesive story. This book is the continuation of that story, but I think that although it continued with fairytale and folklore characters, it was very much in the fantasy realm. It kind of surprised me, actually, as the first book was very folkloric and this one had a completely different feel about it. There is a third book, and I will be interested to see what the third book is like compared to these two. I don’t always love fantasy, especially high fantasy; it just really isn’t my thing. This book was pretty much in the high fantasy realm, but because of the characters and folkloric characters I had come to enjoy from the first book, I was able to talk myself out of my knee-jerk reaction to high fantasy. It isn’t always fair, I know, but it is what it is.

So. About the book. I did like it. It was different than the first one, like I said, and it was different enough that it took me a minute to get into the swing of it. Also, it just jumped right back into the story, and since it’s been awhile since I had read the book, it took me a few pages to get up to speed and feel like I knew what was going on again. The characters had matured since the last book, too, and they were in quite different positions than they were before. Because of that, I felt like it was a completely different book. I liked the changes in a lot of ways, and I really liked how the main character, especially, had matured. Because of these differences, though, I think that a reader could comfortably pick up this book and still enjoy it and understand it even while not having read the first book.

I enjoyed the story in this book, and I really enjoyed the female protagonist. Sure, she had to pretend to be a male for most of it, but she was scrappy and smart and did many things that the men couldn’t do. I love me a strong female character. She wasn’t without faults, though, which I think makes her feel more authentic. She’s young, too, so obviously some of the things she is faced with will be challenging to her. Her magical horse is awesome, too. Everybody needs a magical horse, no? A good book is not made by just one cool character and her magical horse, though, and I am happy to report that the other characters in this book were fun as well. They didn’t get as much face time in the book, and I think that as with many fantasy books this one had so many characters that it is hard to go into detail with too many of them, which is too bad. Some are just left hanging. There is one character in particular that I wish had had more background (and I’m avoiding being specific here because I don’t want to ruin it) but he turns out to be a lot more than one would think at first glance and I think a lot more description and background could have been given to him. Maybe that’s coming in the last installment?

This book is full of excitement and sword fights and challenges for the throne and all kinds of fun fantasy things. Mix in the magical folkloric characters and you’ve got quite the heyday of epicness on your hands. If you are into fantasy books, especially ones that are steeped in folklore and tradition, I think you would really enjoy this book.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is pretty clean, and even the battle scenes are not super graphic, although there is some peril.

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