The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy, following the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, published early last year. (My review here.) The first book was just okay, I thought; a promising beginning, but not outstanding. I hoped the second book would show improvement, and indeed it has. This volume is much better than the first: tighter, more focused, with better pacing, characterizations, and a genuinely exciting climax.
After leaving her home village, a place Vasya paid a great price to protect and which definitely did not deserve her, our protagonist, disguised as a boy, makes her way to Moscow. There she reunites with her brother and sister, who keep her secret with great disapproval. (The strictures on women in this time and place are absolutely appalling. There are only two paths open for them, either marriage or the convent. Vasya's sister, Olga, wants to put her in the "terem," or the women's tower [hence the title], which is just a fancy word for "prison.") She gets caught up with the Grand Prince of Moscow, and the last third of the book is a fast-paced ride of assassination attempts, undying sorcerers, battles, and Russian myths, including the firebird.
While the main storyline of this book is pretty self-contained, there are intriguing hints left dangling, to stir interest in the forthcoming third book. This book is so much improved over the first that I will definitely be on the lookout for the concluding volume.
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