The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden


  • My rating: 4/5 stars
  • Genre: fantasy, historical
  • Expected release: 1/9/19
  • Goodreads
  • Amazon

In the stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, following The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya returns to save Russia and the spirit realm, battling enemies both mortal and magic.

Read below for my spoiler free review.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This novel was an excellent end to an excellent trilogy. If you enjoyed the first two books, it is highly likely that you will love this one as well. If you haven’t read the series, I’d recommend it to those who enjoyed Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik or other historically-based fantasy novels.

This series is home to some of my favorite characters. All of them are expertly fleshed-out, even the antagonists. It was fascinating to read about their motives, doubts, fears, and ethics. No character is explicitly good or evil; it’s refreshing to see shades of moral gray for almost every character. They interact in a way that feels organic and real–they harbor varying degrees of resentment and love for each other in a way that is incredibly complex. Many authors wouldn’t be able to juggle these emotions realistically, but Arden is an expert in understanding and portraying human nature. I think my favorite aspect of this was the development of Vasya as a character. She is stubborn and headstrong, but in a way that is admirable rather than overbearing. She draws strength from those around her and has moments of doubt and vulnerability that she grows from. I loved reading from her perspective and thoroughly enjoyed her stream of consciousness. Her emotions were raw and powerful, I was moved to tears several times throughout the book.

The novel is set in 14th-century Russia, which provides a rich culture regarding religion in politics. Arden provides insight to the inner workings of Rus before it was unified as Russia after facing the Mongols, which is a topic I didn’t know much about before reading this. The novel also explores the coexistence of paganism and Christianity and the struggle between the two. The addition of magic just works to take these already-interesting topics to the next level; it flowed very naturally throughout the plot and added an element of mystery. Arden’s prose was convincing enough to make me feel like I was there with the characters–the tone and atmosphere were all-encompassing and immersive.

My one complaint is that the plot did drag a bit at times. For the most part, the book was very exciting and I couldn’t put it down; however, there were points that felt a bit stagnant and repetitive. These were few and far in between, so I wouldn’t let this deter you from an otherwise outstanding book.

3 responses to “The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden”

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