First Impression Friday: “The Girl in the Tower” by Katherine Arden

And we’re jumping right into the second book in the Winternight trilogy with The Girl in the Tower.

From BookShop:

Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko–Frost, the winter demon from the stories–and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch. Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey. But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues–and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy–she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.

I finished the first part of The Girl in the Tower before starting this FIF entry, and I am getting strong Song of the Lionness vibes from it. The girl dresses as a boy and must never reveal her secret, although there are a select few who know it and guard it with their life.

So far, Vasilisa hasn’t really shown up much in the book, and the first part has dealt with setting up the other characters in this story, namely Vasilisa’s brother Sasha and sister Olga, who live in Moscow as a fighting monk and a princess, respectively. Vasilisa has not seen either of them in the eight years since they left her father’s house, and as such they do not know of her troubles and exploits in fighting her stepmother for the past near-decade.

It took me a long time to place the timeline of the book, and I didn’t actually know what the timeline was until I’d finished the first book and was reading the glossary, where it defines “Grand Prince” and says that the word “Tzar” wasn’t introduced until the mid-1500s, which places the Winternight trilogy firmly in the Medieval period of Russian history, which is way earlier than I thought it would be. I was thinking maybe 1700s, maybe 1800s, but nope, it’s much older than I thought. It also explains why she never sent letters to her siblings in Moscow – nobody except the monks could read or write, if even they could.

I don’t know what to expect from Vasilisa’s story in The Girl in the Tower, but I am very much looking forward to finding out.

Have you read the Winternight trilogy? Should I try to slow down when reading this one? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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