When I first signed up for the Cannonball Read, I had no inkling of the toll that cancer would shortly be taking on my family. On Monday morning, we lost my beloved nan after a short but vicious fight with lung cancer. 4 foot nothing and still able and very willing to eviscerate anyone who so much as looked at you wrong, my nan loved to read. Not quite the same stuff as me – reading exclusively in the genres of tragic lives and smut, she held no truck with magic and fairytales and so would have hated this book. As for me, I enjoyed it, although nowhere near as much as I enjoyed its predecessor.
The Girl In The Tower finds us catching up with Vasya following immediately the events of The Bear and the Nightingale. With her father and stepmother dead, and her village decrying her as a witch, Vasya cannot go home. But nor does she wish to stay with the frost demon Morozco, and so sets out on Solovey to see some of the world. Only managing to get as far as Moscow, on her travels Vasya comes across burnt village after burnt village, and turns up at the gates of Moscow with two rescued children on the back of Solovey and now styling herself as Vasili, the younger brother rather than sister of the Crown Prince’s trusted cousin, the monk Sasha. But her disguise isn’t quite as foolproof as she may have hoped, and nor is everyone around the Prince exactly who they claim to be, which will see Vasya once more play a pivotal role in defeating the forces ranged against them.
With more of a focus on the politics of Moscow this time around, while there was still magic in the air, it had lost a lot of the dark fairytale aspect that I’d loved so much in The Bear and the Nightingale. It was still extremely well written and plotted, but had slightly dulled that edge of wonder that had bowled me over so much the first time around. I’d also read Naomi Novik’s Uprooted in between these two books, which also featured a girl in a tower, and so kept tangling the storylines up in my head – although that failing is admittedly my own rather than the books.
That said, I’m still looking forward to the last in this trilogy and will be keeping an eye out for more from Katherine Arden in the future. And I’ll definitely be buying everything I do read through the Cannonball links, while remembering my Granny Alwena.