The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (Spoilers)

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Two 🔥 FIERY FAVORITE🔥 reads in a row!!! Which is a rarity for me, for sure. We had a snow day here in Maryland yesterday and so I was able to finish this one off, which I was very excited about because I had just picked up the third installment in this series on Tuesday. I’m going to go ahead and warn you in advance but there will probably be spoilers throughout this entire post because I just can’t help myself.

So if you don’t want the second book spoiled, TURN AWAY NOW!

The Girl in the Tower is the continuation of Vasya’s story from The Bear and the Nightingale. As you can see from my post about the first book, it blew me away. I was a little reticent heading in to book two because I feel like the second book never lives up to the hype of the first, especially in a series. Katherine Arden even believed something similar if you read the acknowledgements in the back of this book. But her worry, and mine was totally unfounded. At least in my case. I loved The Girl in the Tower just as much as The Bear and the Nightingale, if not more. In the second installment in this series we see Vasya grow in to her own woman as she finally decides to be a traveler. There is a little bit of waffling on her part about what this means, but in the end, she stays consistent with what she wants, which is pretty much to be anything other than a wife or a nun. After leaving Lesnaya Zemlya she ventures back to Morozko’s abode where she asks if she can control a portion of the dowry he thrust upon her in Book 1. She’s not there long before she sets off with Solovey (her Nightingale) to travel the world. She doesn’t make it far before she encounters a little trouble in the form of men pursuing her for unknown reasons. In her escape from these men, she finds something even more disturbing – a village burned to the ground. When she asks the survivors what happened, she discovers that bandits not only burned the entire village but they took 3 girls with them for nefarious purposes. Apparently these bandits are leaving a swath of burned villages in their wake and have already caught the attention of Sasha, Vasya’s brother, who has in turn brought it to the attention of the Grand Prince Dmitrii, their cousin. When Vasya rescues the 3 girls from the clutches of the bandits, her path crosses with Sasha and Dmitrii’s and the siblings are forced to lie about Vasya’s gender to protect her reputation, which puts Sasha’s relationship (and Olga’s social standing) with the Grand Prince at risk.

While I do love this series, these books are definitely not a quick read. It took me a while to read these 363 pages. But that’s because the world that Arden paints is so lush with detail. I felt like I was in Rus’. And man, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect book to read on a snow day. It could probably be 100° outside and I would probably feel cold if I was reading these books.

What I really liked about the second book in this series is that the characters stayed consistent. There was no sudden change of heart or mind or anything like that. Even with a man like Kasyan Lutovich, who Vasya admits is attractive, she doesn’t start planning their wedding once she catches his eye. She remains suspicious and distant….and feisty. Vasya definitely maintains her feistiness, but in a way that doesn’t seem gratuitous to the story line or whiny in a female. She genuinely doesn’t understand why she can’t just be free. For me, Vasya will definitely always be a shining example of a 🔥 Fiery Female🔥. For whatever reason, I didn’t label her as such in my review of the first book, maybe because she was coming-of-age? But she definitely is in book two.

In addition to the world-building and the characters, I love the little peeks that Arden gives us at what it was like to live in Rus’ during the time period these books take place. We see when Vasya visits Olga that Olga lives in a tower and she really only leaves when she goes to church. The place for women in Moscow is the terem and young girls are not allowed to leave unless properly chaperoned and covered for the sake of their modesty. Morozko tells Vasya that if she is to be a traveler, she needs to travel as a boy because she will not be able to travel through cities and towns unmolested as a girl. Arden has a way of slipping important cultural details in to her works without the reader being any the wiser. It just adds to the atmosphere and the environment of the book.

Another thing I occasionally like to do is contemplate the title of the book and how it applies to the story and/or the characters. Who is the girl in the tower? Is it Vasya if she’s forced to take the path that society demands of her? Is it Olga, living in the city of Moscow but only allowed to leave her tower to go to church? Is it Marya, Olga’s daughter and Vasya’s neice, sentenced to the same fate as her mother but built with a spirit similar to Vasya’s? Or is it their grandmother, who came from the wilds and ensnared Grand Prince Ivan only to never be allowed to leave Moscow and who haunts the very tower that Olga and Marya now call home? The answer….? Yes. So many comparisons can be made and I’m here for them all.

Maybe I like this series so much because Vasya is living the dream I always imagined for myself. Just a girl, and her horse, traveling the world together and living off the land. It’s definitely way more romantic in thought than in practice, but still. I envy Vasya’s freedom, even though it is plagued with hard decisions and uncomfortable situations. I can’t wait to see what The Winter of the Witch has in store for me! I’ll be finding out soon enough.

 

🗣Talk to Me🗣

Have you come across a fictional character that is living the story you always imagined for yourself? What’s your favorite season? What books have you read that just make you feel the season that they’re written in? Did you find another Girl in the Tower that I missed?

 

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