I read Bear and the Nightingale last year and loved it. So when I saw the sequel, Girl in the Tower in NetGalley I know I had to request it. Thanks to Penguin Random house and NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
This is a FEMINIST fairy tale. I bow to Katherine Arden for writing this in a world where young girls are forcefully spoon fed unrealistic expectations by the media. Body image, The endless pressure to be beautiful, to be liked by men, to be accepted.
Quote from the book:
Your world doesn’t care what you want.
The story is set in medieval Russia, where magic is a part of the world like nature, fantastic creatures lurking in houses, forests, on roads; only certain people have the ability to see them. This is a world where a girl should not ride horses. A girl should not fight. A girl should not disobey her father or brothers. A girl should marry when the time comes, and give sons to her husband or go to convent and become a nun if she cannot find someone to marry. A girl should not die in child bed. A girl should stay inside buildings: tower or shack, palace or a single room dwelling, and should not complain, even her life passes in there without experiencing the world. A girl should do what’s expected of her. As you see, this magical, medieval world in Russia is no different than parts of today’s world : Men decide for women.
The first book, The Bear and Nightingale, is the growing up tale of Vasya. She discovers that what is expected of her is not what she really wants. But luckily: She is not afraid to determine her own fate.
Girl in the Tower picks up immediately from where the first book finished. Vasya begins an adventure where she will make good and bad decisions, and will discover things she doesn’t know. In this book we have dangerous Tatar bandits, mysterious noble Kasyan, Grand-Prince of Moscow, Vasya’s siblings Sasha and Olga, Olga’s children, and many more characters. And of course, Morozko. Swinging between his god-self to human-self, he takes a major part in this sequel.
This book is much more action packed than The Bear and the Nightingale , and reminded me a lot of The Mists of Avalon.
…the constant church-bell reminded folk too often that banniki should not exist. The thought made her sad.
The unbearable sadness of the loss of magic is there between the pages, Christianity and the churches eating up the traces of magic in this world.
I will go on by bullet pointing some things I really loved about this book:
- The imperfect characters. No one is a super hero. None of the characters are perfect. Vasya or the other characters can make bad decisions.
- The dialogue between the characters gives the reader an insightful dose of “why we should not be racist” :
“You cannot take vengeance on a whole people because of the doings of a few wicked men.”
- Reading about Russian folklore is fascinating. Comparing it with other nation’s myths to see the cultural differences, how history and geography determines the fairy tales for every country / nation is even more fascinating for me.
- Do I have to have another go on how incredibly feminist this book is? Probably not!
I wish the glossary in this books were either in the front of the book or it had a note to reader to make aware of glossary. I never check the last pages of a book when I read it so discovering the glossary after finishing the book and struggling to understand the magical creature names, Russian terms and everything, was a bit frustrating!
If you liked this book I would recommend you to read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Actually Uprooted is very similar and it gets into Polish folklore which seems similar with Rus/Russian but I am sure there will be differences if you get into depths of them! Still highly recommended if you liked these series.
This book will be published on 25th January. The third book in the series is rumoured to be published August 2018! Can’t wait, really.