For the first time in my life, it turns out that I know someone who knows someone, which is how I managed to get my eager little hands on a pre-release copy of The Winter of the Witch, the final instalment in Katherine Arden’s fantastic Winternight Trilogy. And what a treat it was. Taking everything I loved from The Bear and the Nightingale (and missed most in The Girl in the Tower, namely the chyerti of the forest and the homestead) and ramping it all the way up to 11, The Winter of the Witch was a superlative ending to what has been an utterly spellbinding series.
The Girl in the Tower ended with the burning of Moscow, following the freeing of the firebird by Vasya. Picking up exactly where it left off, The Winter of the Witch sees Vasya forced to flee when Father Konstantin riles the Moscovites into a rabble intent on burning her as a witch. Aided in her escape by Morozco, the price for his aid is dire – the Bear is now free once more and intent on sowing the seeds of chaos and disaster as Moscow rebuilds, all whilst it’s also being threatened with invasion by human foes. To save Moscow and Russia, Vasya will need to marshal all of the powers at her disposal as well as those of the chyerti to save their homeland, a quest that will see her travel past the borders of mortal lands and into those of Midnight, discover more of her family history and unleash powers within herself she never thought possible, all whilst coming to terms with her feelings for Morozco.
Utterly spellbinding from start to finish, The Winter of the Witch once again brings medieval Russia and its folklore to vivid life in a book that’s imbued with wonder and feeling (I nearly cried myself dry at an early part, which I will let others discover for themselves). It’s the perfect ending to a perfect winter read, and one that has ensured that I will henceforth be purchasing a copy of everything Katherine Arden ever writes.