Rating: 5/5 Stars
I just wanted to say a big thank you to Del Rey/Ebury Publishing for sending a proof of this novel to me for review many many moons ago. After an extended blogging hiatus I'm ready to dive back in, and I'm privileged to feature the finale of this monumental trilogy on my blog.
It's no secret that The Bear and The Nightingale is a new favourite of mine, and Arden definitely hasn't disappointed with this gut wrenching closing chapter. So I guess we better dive on in huh?
We pick up where we left off in The Girl in the Tower: Vasya has just saved Moscow from the wrath of the fire bird, and how waits with unease for the brunt of the rage of the city's people to wrap around and consume her whole.
There is so much that happens in the first few chapters, which moves at such a stark contrast to the slow burning trilogy as a whole. It's heartbreaking, its terrifying, and it completely sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Rus' as always, is rich with character and vivid in detail: made all the more real through Arden's stellar tone of voice. I loved visiting the house by the lake, soaking in the waters of a mysterious and magical country as wild and untameable as Vasya and all the chyert themselves.
On the subject, Vasya's might be my favourite development of character...like ever. She is wilful and empathetic where the situation requires it, she is loyal but reckless: she gambles and takes risks. Sometimes not even she can control her impulses. I like that she is imperfect, and sometimes - selfish.
Her relationship with Morozco too, has depth and nuance. Neither fully compromises self in order to please the other for the sake of it. Both are aware of the ways that the risks they take might turn for the worse, and they have their own struggles and desires to work through and meet. This often results in lies and hidden truths shared between them both. Their history effects their relationship: it feel realistic, tangible even. When they share in moments of intimacy it makes those stolen seconds all the more sweet. I'm also a sucker for anything tall, dark and brooding so *shrugs* what can I say? I love them.
We see more of Morozco and his past, his relationship with the Bear is explored. We also meet a few new characters, including a brave little mushroom spirit and experience a seriously unexpected and visceral loss; our hate and seething blooms right alongside Vasya's. No character is perfect, no character is perfectly evil; Arden confronts this concept beautifully, and using Vasya for a vehicle for that discovery makes her an even more powerful character. Can you tell I love Vasya? Because I love Vasya.
Honestly I found the whole series so moving: it reads like a love letter to slavic folklore. As a writer, it makes me want to soak in Welsh folktales until I am so sick of them that I am compelled to write my own. The Bear and the Nightingale series is, without a doubt an absolute favourite of mine. I cannot wait to see what Arden writes next - and I think its safe to say, you'll find me at the front of the queue come its release day.
Find The Winter of the Witch on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36621586-the-winter-of-the-witch?ac=1&from_search=true