The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – REVIEW
One girl can make a difference…
Moscow has burned nearly to the ground, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to hold accountable. Vasya finds herself on her own, amid a rabid mob that calls for her death, blaming her witchery for their misfortune.
Then a vengeful demon returns, renewed and stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos in his wake and never be chained again. Enlisting the hateful priest Konstantin as his servant, turmoil plagues the Muscovites and the magical creatures alike, and all find their fates resting on the shoulders of Vasya.
With an uncertain destiny ahead of her, Vasya learns surprising truths of her past as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all…
“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark.”
If you follow my bookstagram, you’ll know I adore this series so much. You can imagine how excited I was to receive a proof copy of this final book a few months ago. It turned out to be an incredible ending to one of my all-time favourite series and I’m already planning to reread it this month.
The story begins where the second book ended, with suspicion and superstition threatening Vasya. It’s hard to believe Vasya is still only seventeen-years-old as she’s such a huge character, and so courageous. I loved learning more about her growing magical abilities and the increasing power she learns to harness throughout this book.
“She had survived the frost and the flame, had found a harbour, however brief. Perhaps that was all anyone could ask.”
One of my favourite elements was how authentic and relatable the bond between Vasya and her siblings is, and I found Sasha to be particularly well-written. It was so rewarding to discover more about Vasya’s ancestry as well – however, do not look at the family tree at the back of the book if you want to avoid spoilers!
Morozko is one of my favourite characters and the relationship between him and Vasya is beautifully developed. The romance plays a relatively minor role in the story yet engages the reader completely. One of the most interesting characters for me is Konstantin Nikonovich who wields insidious power to corrupt the followers he gathers. I found him fascinating due to his morally grey nature, and his habit of lying even to himself.
“Because that is the only way you can play for everything, when you do not fear to lose.”
I love how Katherin Arden is able to successfully surprise the reader. About two-thirds of the way through, the story branches out to include a wider threat to Russia from the Tatars. Vasya finds herself drawn into the conflict as all magical beings must fight together to have any hope of defeating the Tatars. The direction Medved’s storyline took was completely unexpected yet turned out to be perfect.
The memorable world-building, complex characters, and beautifully lyrical prose combine to create a satisfying and unforgettable story that cements this trilogy as one of my favourites. If you enjoy well-written fantasy novels with an atmospheric setting then you should really read this series as soon as possible.