The Winter of the Witch
by Katherine Arden
Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.
Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.
As this is the third and the concluding novel in the Winternight trilogy, I might slip up and there might be some spoilers so keep that in mind going into this review.
From the first book which was enchanting and absolutely magical to the second book which showed such strength and growth in Vasya to the concluding novel which saw Vasya truly coming into her own. It was such an amazing journey for me because Katherine Arden’s writing is simply brilliant.
“Sasha, studying her, surprised himself by saying, “You look just like our mother.”
Her eyes opened at that; sudden pleasure drove away the shadows in her face. He said, smiling, “Our mother always put bread in the oven at night. For the domovoi.”
In this one, we see Vasya just barely surviving from the trauma of the previous book’s happenings, we see her enduring such grief and we also see her becoming a witch, owning up to her true powers. We also see a return of the brothers Medved and Morozko. After the events of The Bear and the Nightingale and the fiasco of The Girl in the Tower, Medved truly had a chance to shine in this one. The complex and cunning natuer of Medved was truly a treat to read.
“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.”
Then we come to Morozko. Oh, I have so many thoughts about this one. I really love Morozko as a character and to a certain extent, I even appreciated Vasya and Morozko’s relationship but it sometimes felt a bit unnecessary? Maybe it’s just me who wishes there was no need for the romance to be given as much importance as all that. I am sure many people will disagree with me on this point because for once the romance truly wasn’t the end all and be all of the story. You see why I have such mixed feelings on this one?
Continuing from the second book, we see Moscow on fire, the dead are walking again and amidst all that, Vasya has been forced to go into Midnight. Midnight where she could take a break from her hardships, take a breath but soon Vasya learns that Midnight wasn’t without its own dangers. There she learns about her mother and her lineage and there she friends some allies as well.
Despite wanting to stay there, Vasya knows that she was needed out in Moscow, if not for the people of Moscow then for her family. And so she left Midnight and set out to conquer her part of the world by coming into her own, by wrangling help on her own terms and trust me that was glorious to read.
“I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”
From themes of religion to having agency of her own in medieval Russia, The Winter of the Witch truly is a marvel. Even thought I cribbed about the romance, it is still done really well. I just really genuinely enjoy this series, okay? And I am sad that it’s over but absolutely happy at the way it ended.