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Forget You Haven’t Read This Book

There’s still time if you haven’t yet started Katherine Arden’s lush and fantastical series that is wrapping up with an excellent conclusion in her latest novel, The Winter of the Witch. Go ahead; we’ll wait.

Forget You Haven’t Read This Book
[He] blanched. “…Those fools. I warned them.” Vasya gave him a dazzling smile, without warmth. “You shouldn’t have told them I was a girl. Then they might have believed I was dangerous.”

BOOK REPORT for The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Platinum Edition
Swoonworthy Scale: 10
Talky Talk: Simply The Best
Bonus Factors: Witches, Magical Creatures, Fantastical Journeys
Anti-Bonus Factors: Violence Against Women, Character Death
Factor: TEABS
Relationship Status: Goin’ To The Chapel

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the third book in the Winternight series, so if you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale or The Girl in the Tower, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing.

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

It is so hard to choose a favorite cover from this series. Each one tells such a unique story. We went from a sleepy winter cabin to a woman, in charge of her own destiny, standing before an army. It’s only fitting that the Firebird is also represented, and her bright colors are sublime.  

The Deal:

Vasya’s night has gone from bad to worse. After defeating Kasyan and inadvertently setting half of Moscow aflame (and then calling in the winter-king to come and put it out), all she wants is a moment to regroup and be with her family. But Konstantin, that sham of a priest with a gilded tongue, knows her fiery secret and is determined to make Vasya pay. He gathers a mob to burn Vasya at the stake for being a witch who cursed the city. To free her, Morozko makes a desperate deal with the devil—or, in this case, with a Bear…

Now is the time when futures will be decided. The Grand Prince and all of Rus’ have been called to join the Tartar army or die for their insubordination. The chyerti face extinction as the Christian priests urge people away from their pagan beliefs, but the Bear would stir up pure chaos and turn men to madness to keep that from happening. And to her surprise, Vasya is somehow thrust in the middle of it all, holding the power to bring everything together…or destroy it for good.

BFF Charm: Platinum Edition

As her new official platinum-status best friend, let me be the first to give Vasya a freaking hug, because Lord knows the girl needs one. Nothing like an attempted burning at the stake to make someone turn against their fellow man, but lucky for them, Vasya is a better person than all of those jerks in Moscow. Somehow, despite her anxiety and terror, she still wants to save her people. I love the woman who that little girl from the first book has grown up to be: resilient and brave, powerful yet still learning, kind but not naïve.

Swoonworthy Scale: 10

I don’t want to spoil too much about how and where Morozko and Vasya reunite, but let’s just say the title of this random Celine Dion song is very apt, in a metaphorical and yet quite literal sense (I promise that’s less creepy than it sounds).

I have found myself notoriously picky with my swoon, (I rarely feel a book is worthy of a 10, and I even struggled a bit typing out those numbers above) and I won’t say this is my favorite romance ever, BUT something about an ageless frost-demon learning to love and a girl who needs someone to believe in her, both helping each other be better people—I was there for it all with a silly grin on my face. The tone of the romance fit the story perfectly and there was just enough of it that it enhanced the plot instead of stymied it, and that’s why this is a 10. 

Talky Talk: Simply The Best

THAT is how you end a series! Each book of the Winternight trilogy has been so distinct, but the entire journey has such a cohesive, epic, and timeless quality. I eagerly fell back into the magic as soon as it began, and every note was spot-on and satisfying. Arden even managed to make me pity Konstantin, and I was over here before the book started with popcorn in hand, ready to voyeuristically gloat in his comeuppance. Sometimes you come away from a book on such a high you question yourself when everything settles down. Was that really that good of a story? Am I being overly generous? But my answers are damn straight and hell no, in that order. I can totally see how this type of series won’t be for everyone (different strokes ‘n all), but, man, those people are missing out.

Bonus Factor: Witches

In my last book report, I was curious about what kinds of magic Vasya would do. Aptly titled The Winter of the Witch, it’s safe to say we learn even more about her powers. As an avid fantasy reader, I’ve seen my share of magical constructs and their limitations, but the concept of being able to simply forget things haven’t always been what you want them to be (and thus making them so) was pretty clever and inventive.

Bonus Factor: Magical Creatures

I wouldn’t normally put birds and horses together to create a magical creature whose spiritual essence is a bird, but who generally prefers to hang around as a horse, but I gotta say, I dig it. (But before you say “Pegasus”, that’s definitely not what these horsies are.)

There’s also an adorable mushroom-chyerti who is the perfect amount of Disney sidekick that I wanted to squish (cute aggression is real y’all).

Bonus Factor: Fantastical Journeys

To find Morozko and to get away from, you know, a murdery mob, Vasya enters the Midnight road. It’s a kaleidoscope of distant lands and times, and every few yards or so you can find yourself in a brand new place. But if you fall asleep in a night that isn’t your own, you may return to find years have gone by—or worse, you’ll never return at all. Delightfully creepy! 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Violence Against Women

Once you’re branded a witch (or, let’s be real, basically anything “other”), you are less than human. Vasya is beaten and tortured before she even steps foot on the pyre, and it’s tough to read of the disgusting depths we humans can sink to.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Character Death

I am torn between warning you about one particular death and not wanting to ruin the story for you. Let’s just say there were multiple points where I sobbed.

Factor: TEABS 

Pleeeease don’t be over! I am le sad! Whatever shall I look forward to now? In the author’s note, Arden talks about how she began this book on the beaches of Hawaii when she was just twenty-three (Google informs me that she was born in 1987—excellent year, if I say so myself) so to finally see this published and done is the culmination of almost a decade of work and love. I selfishly hope that we will see more of Vasya’s world (perhaps with more of Marya’s story, she says with desperation) but as long as Arden has other fantastic stories rattling around her noggin, I will be (mostly) content with just three excellent books from this series.

Relationship Status: Goin’ To The Chapel

Book, you’ve put a ring on it and I’ve set the date. We are going to be together for a LONG, long time.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• For a similarly immersive fairy tale feel, you can’t go wrong with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted or Spinning Silver

• Melissa Albert’s twisted fairy tale, The Hazel Wood, also has a girl who must find her own path and defy expectations. 

• For a more modern-day fairy tale, it’s hard to believe there may be some of you out there who haven’t already read Marissa Meyer’s kickass Lunar Chronicles, but if that’s you, man, are you in for a treat starting with Cinder.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Del Ray. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Winter of the Witch is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.