The Girl in the Tower || A Review

Initial Thoughts:

Like its predecessor, this sequel is a slow-burning tale of characters in a fantasy, medieval Russia, where the world is churning out of the old ways and into the new. But there are still winter-kings and firebirds and men who cannot die. And it was so. friggin. GOOD.


THE GIRL IN THE TOWER

by Katherine Arden
Del Rey, December 2017
Historical fantasy
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies
provided by Del Rey and NetGalley (thank you!)

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

I do want to thank Jess Bonet and the wonderful people at Random House for the ARC of The Girl in the Tower and  a super lovely copy of The Bear and the Nightingale! I’ve been a little late with review copies lately, but I really did want to read this next book because I enjoyed TBatN so much and did want to get into what happened next with Vasya and her siblings.

I was definitely not disappointed. When I saw that The Girl in the Tower involved Sasha and Olga (two characters who disappeared near the beginning of TBatN and who I really wanted to get to know), I was so in. The fact that Vasya was dressed as a boy was also a plus, because when would I ever say no to a book with crossdressing women?

In any case, this book played out as a direct continuation of the events in The Bear in the Nightingale. Cast out by her village, Vasya pretty much runs away, finds Morozko, and gets trained by the frost-king to fend for herself. This would have been a problematic scene if not for the fact that not all of the “training” was practical, and some of it ended up being hijinks anyway, which I love, because why wouldn’t I love something like a possible romance between a witch’s daughter and an immortal death god? (Not that much happens, mind, this is going to be a slow-ass burn romance, isn’t it? DAMN YOU, ARDEN.)

It doesn’t start with Vasya, though. In fact, it starts with Olga and then Sasha and what they’ve been up to while the events in Bear took place. At this point, because of the way information traveled in medieval Russia, Olga and Sasha don’t find out about their siblings until they encounter Father Konstantin, who’s not quite done with causing trouble with his crazy-talk. Olga is a political game-player in her own right, a princess of Moscow, and Sasha is the right hand man (and monk) of Rus’ Grand Prince. While Olga is satisfied in her tower, Sasha is dissatisfied with staying in a monastery, and finds himself traveling with the Grand Prince in order to find out what’s been burning nearby villages. This is when Sasha meets up with Vasya, only…she’s dressed as a boy and that’s a scandalous thing. A very scandalous thing!

Like Bear, the book has a fairy tale feel to it, the kind of feel you get when you’re sitting near a fireplace–or, in my case, bundled up in a warm blanket and cozying up in bed–and sipping some hot cocoa. It is not meant to be a fast, action-paced read, and for the most part, Arden spends most of her time building up to the climax. When all the pieces are put in play, though, it becomes awesome and I admit I practically squeed a few times when she paid even more homage to Russian fairy tales by adding even more well-known figures in. (I won’t mention which ones, because SPOILERS.)

The characters were fun to read, even Father Konstantin had a storyline that gets tied into the narrative. I would love to see more of Midnight’s role in the story, and I feel like things are soon going to come to a head with what happens at the end of the story. Winter is waning, and with that said, so are Morozko’s powers. This means the Sleeper is waking, and I. Cannot. Wait.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! I actually liked this a bit more than the first book, mostly because HIJINKS ❤

This counts as Book #1 of my NetGalley and Edelweiss Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Season 3: Donkeyskin!

Here be incest! Okay I probably should have been talking about other things, like how pretty the sky, sun, and starry dresses were and how this fairy tale isn’t even half as bad as its historical counterpart. But seriously, though, people are just messed up. So listen to Meg and me talk about it!

Fableulous Retellings Podcast

Marilag and Meghan are back to discuss a disturbing and almost nauseating French fairy tale: Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault. Mari discusses the true story the fairy tale is perhaps based on, and Meghan keeps her head in her hands as she tries to figure out the moral of the story. They discuss the alternate versions of the story (Grimm Brothers) and realize they’ll probably need alcohol this season to deal with awful fathers and douchebag princes.

Warnings ahead: we have some incestuous relationships this season OH GOD.

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Join us every Tuesday for a new episode!

Thank you toBenSoundfor our theme music andVidaLovesCakefor our artwork!

Check out this episode!

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Season 4: Which Retelling Next?

We’re looking for your input! Again, it’s about time that we’re finishing up a season and gearing for the next, so while Meg and I are putting together our Donkeyskin retellings, we’d love it if you go and vote for our next podcast retelling. Please and thank you and I will hopefully be back next post with a review or two!

Fableulous Retellings Podcast

Before we get into the nitty gritty of polling, we just wanted to announce the winning fairy tale to be retold in the last poll: Donkeyskin! Yep, with your help, we now know what to talk about for our third season.

That being said, we are also sending out some invites! Want to chat with us about Donkeyskin retellings? Let us know! This fairy tale is a personal favorite of mine, but that’s probably because deep down I have a sick and twisty soul with a penchant around sick and twisty tales. In any case, there’s going to be lots of fun discussing the issues to be had in this fairy tale. There’s still a couple weeks left before Season 2 comes to a close, so do let us know if you’re willing to make a guest appearance on our fableulous podcast!

Alright, now that we’ve finally locked down…

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