Fiction / Fantasy
DISCLAIMER: I received an electronic ARC from the publisher.
This is a sequel to Katherine Arden's first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, which I also received from NetGalley, and by the end of this one, I was in (happy) tears. Our heroine, Vasya, has left her village, and has decided to become a traveler, and therefore a boy. With the help of Morozko, Father Frost or the Winter King (who has his own reasons for helping her), she makes a fair boy. Her choices aren't many—marriage or the convent, neither of which appeal to her. She is used to running free, riding her horse, and either choice would be a slow and painful death. And when she faces death, she does so with a clear mind and honor.
Vasya makes it to Moscow where she finds her brother, the Monk, and her sister, the Princess, both of whom are horrified at what she has done. The Priest who chased her out of her village is also now in Moscow, and he's after the blood of all Witches, of which, he is sure, Vasya is.
If her secret is made public, that she is really a girl, she faces either death by being burned alive in a cage, or being shut up in a convent. Not only does she face punishment, so do her sister and brother for not reporting her immediately. Considered an affront against God and nature, girls were to be nothing but quiet, demure, and pliant. That's not our Vasya. She prefers adventure, and we are so fortunate that she takes us along.
In the back of the book are notes, in which naming conventions are explained, as well as some of the history upon which this story is drawn.
Vasya has some great escapades, meets danger with courage and cunning, and the end of the book is most satisfactory (I was in tears, remember?). There are subplots, enough good guys and bad guys to satisfy anyone's craving, and the end is wrapped in a great ribbon of stardust. A marvelous adult fairy tale.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys good storytelling, good writing, and fairytales of any era. Although this is a sequel, I think it would read just fine if you read it as a stand-alone. I look forward to Ms. Arden's next book. Alas, I read them faster than she writes them.
My review of The Bear and the Nightingale http://lenoragood.blogspot.com/search?q=Katherine+Arden