Hello Humans! You are most welcome to today’s review, featuring one of my most anticipated reads for 2019 (and it’s only January – what a year we have ahead of us). I was desperate to read The Winter of the Witch as it concludes one of my favourite trilogies of all time (and I don’t say that lightly) but wasn’t approved for the book on NetGalley so wasn’t sure which kidney I would have to sell in order to obtain a copy. Thankfully, and by some miracle, when we left a Blogger showcase at Oxford bookshop Blackwell’s Justine pointed out to me that in our goodie bags was, in fact, an ARC of The Winter of the Witch – I genuinely almost cried. So that is that happy story as to how I obtained a copy of one of the best books I read in 2018 – thank you Blackwell’s.
One girl can make a difference…
Moscow has burned nearly to the ground, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to hold accountable. Vasya finds herself on her own, amid a rabid mob that calls for her death, blaming her witchery for their misfortune.
Then a vengeful demon returns, renewed and stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos in his wake and never be chained again. Enlisting the hateful priest Konstantin as his servant, turmoil plagues the Muscovites and the magical creatures alike, and all find their fates resting on the shoulders of Vasya.
With an uncertain destiny ahead of her, Vasya learns surprising truths of her past as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all…
This review will be spoiler free The Winter of the Witch but may contain spoilers for The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower.
Honestly, this review could end up being me screeching like a pterodactyl for ten minutes, that’s how much I loved reading this. I started it one day and finished it the next, after being completely glued to the page. This is one of those books where every moment you aren’t reading it, you wish that you were. Having a day job was a nightmare because all I wanted to do was read.
I wish I could capture exactly what it is that makes me love these books so much, I would then bottle it and use it to make my own writing just as engaging, spectacular and heartbreaking. Reading this book was like coming home to something, the kind of story that utterly captivates without feeling too heavy.
Did I mention this book is heartbreaking? Because it absolutely is, I won’t spoil it, of course, but just a few pages in you get thwacked right in the chest with a tragedy I genuinely wasn’t expecting. I had to stop, put the book down and process what had happened – which never happens to me. What I appreciated was that this doesn’t feel forced, it isn’t a ‘look how edgy I am as an author, killing my darlings’. It makes sense for the story and it informs the plot – this isn’t a tragedy for the sake of tragedy and it feels incredibly honest and is all the more moving as a result.
There are new characters! I wasn’t expecting too many of them this late in the game, but there are new characters and one of them I am utterly in love with. No spoilers, again, but for those who have read it – mushroom.
Arden creates worlds within worlds, and the fact that the figures included in these books draw from real folklore (is that an oxymoron?) gives it so much more depth. Arden brings these characters and the world they inhabit to life in a way that simultaneously maintains and dismisses their mystery.
I know, none of this is coherent but I have a lot of feelings.
Vasya remains one of my favourite fantasy heroines of all time. Thinking back to how she was in The Bear and the Nightingale to who she becomes in The Winter of the Witch her character arc is truly exceptional. What I adore about Vasya is that she never comes across as preachy. She is living in a country where the creatures with whom she interacts would be seen as demons (or an equivalent thereof) and yet she never tells people they should stop believing in God if they want to, she cares about the preservation of the old ways but at no point does she force anyone else to agree with her. Vasya has her priorities straight and her motivations clear. She truly feels like a character from a fairytale – but not some slippered princess.
In case it wasn’t obvious, I utterly adored this entire series from start to finish, and The Winter of the Witch stands up with the other two, rarely am I so enchanted by a book, this was a reminder of what a five-star book feels like to me. If you haven’t read any of this series yet then I wholeheartedly recommend that you grab yourself a copy. If you have read the first two and you’re wondering whether this book holds up – it absolutely does, now get reading!
My rating: (unsurprisingly) 5/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Blackwell’s, all opinions are my own.
The Winter of the Witch publishes on January 10th 2019, preorder your copy here (affiliate link)
What say you? Please tell me you’re going to read this!