The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch

I’ve taken a week to formulate my thoughts about the mesmerising finale of Arden‘s Winternight Trilogy. I’m afraid my emotions are still all over the place and I do apologise in advance for extensive gushing.

Let’s first back up a bit. The Winter of the Witch is the third book in the series and I do not recommend reading it as a standalone book as it heavily leans into its previous instalments. On the flip side, if you haven’t read any of these books yet, you have quite a treat waiting for you. There are full of magic, highly atmospheric and I do dare to agree with Amalia and her beautiful review of this book – I also think this trilogy is ‘making its way to be a classic‘.

The Bear and the Nightingale started this magical series with a highly atmospheric, coming of age story. I got to meet Vasya and I immediately fell in love with Arden‘s writing, her clever story telling and all that Slavic folklore, which always screams ‘HOME‘ to me whenever I am exposed to it.

The second book, The Girl in the Tower, turns darker. The innocence of youth is long gone and Vasya, a young adult, is determined to travel the world. Its tone is different – it’s not only that darkness but also its faster pace that contrasts the first book. It’s a roller coaster of events and I could not put it down.

The Winter of the Witch starts exactly where The Girl in the Tower ended. You can sense the torment medieval Moscow is experiencing, you can feel the fear her people are immersed in. The beginning is DARK…. and it gets darker, much much darker.

It’s rare to be amazed by all books in a series but that is the case of Winternight Trilogy – I do not know how it’s possible that every book makes me so sad when it’s over and every time I read those books I keep on thinking ‘this is why I read‘. It makes my heart sing, it makes me happy on so many levels. Arden‘s characters are believable and complex. Vasya is not beautiful and her appearance is utterly irrelevant. It is who she is as a person that counts. She is set on a quest, makes mistakes, asks for help, admits her flaws and owns all of it.

The Winter of the Witch explores Vasya‘s dark side. What I enjoyed in particular was her interaction with Medved (the Bear). Medved is a clear antagonist. In a perfect hero / anti-hero tradition, Medved almost completes Vasya and despite him behaving terribly and doing unacceptable things, you almost get to like him. Something I always appreciate when reading about villains.

And then there is Morozko (Frost Demon). Not portrayed as a monster but rather as someone, who can feel human emotions and who can care despite being terrified of it. A very minor spoiler ahead: yes, he is featured in this book and yes, Vasya doesn’t forget him. 😊

β€˜β€™I am a witch’’, said Vasya. Blood was running down her hand now, spoiling her grip. β€˜β€™I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.’’ She caught his knife on the crosspiece of hers, hilt to hilt. β€˜β€™I have crossed three times nine realms to find you, my lord. And I find you at play, forgetful.’’

This book is full of action, features battles, moments of sadness when lives are lost, moments of hope when Vasya steps into her power and utterly charming moments of magic when Vasya travels the Midnight road to start her new quest.

I appreciate how Arden mixes old and new beliefs together. How this book is not just about what you believe in but how strongly you believe it. Fans of Gaiman‘s American Gods will enjoy this messaging for sure!

I also enjoyed reading Arden‘s parting comments, in which she shares Russian history and explains how some of her characters got to be. Some of them are based on real historical figures. I do recommend reading this section as it is a fascinating read.

I loved everything about this book, its pace, well developed characters, that feeling of bittersweetness and Arden‘s gorgeous writing. Russian folklore, medieval setting, atmospheric descriptions… it will all steal your hearts.

To me, it’s an utter perfection. I could have easily read it in a day but forced myself to read it over seven days to prolong this magical journey. I cherished those evenings I could read yet another chapter of this book.

I’ll leave you with a question: “if someone lives in our thoughts, does it mean that person still exists”?

I firmly believe so.

I would like to thank both the publisher, Penguin Random House UK as well as the author, for proving me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ❀️

Over to you: have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, are you planning on doing so?

Happy reading and thanks for stopping by. πŸ“šβ€οΈ


49 thoughts on “The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden”

  1. This trilogy is the perfect combination of everything I love – medieval, Russian fairytales. I’ve only read The Bear And The Nightingale, and I can’t wait to get stuck in to the next two!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a perfect timing to read those two books now the final one is out. πŸ‘Œ I’m crossing my fingers you will enjoy them as much as you did The Bear and the Nightingale. πŸ€ Happy reading! 😊 πŸ“š

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks to you, and your wonderful reviews, Vera, I have the series on order for my Fantasy February readathon. I can’t wait to start with The Bear And The Nightingale. I really need to get back into reading some really good fantasy, and have decided February is going to be that month. Thank you for the push in the right direction. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Alexandra for your kind words. I’m crossing all my fingers (and toes) that you enjoy this series as well. February will be the perfect month to read about Frost Demon. Enjoy and happy reading! πŸ˜ŠπŸ“š

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve exercised creativity my whole life. Now, I work in a theatre. Yet there’s awlays some part of me that wonders why we engage in creative activity. We can’t eat it or wear it or live in it (well, some people do, lol). But your post reminded me of something: we do things that make us feel emotions because not much in regular bill-paying life DOES make us feel something strong. And I believe that the whole point of living well is to feel strongly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree. To live fully means to expose our hearts to love, joy, vulnerability / uncertainly which also brings heartbreak and sadness. We can’t choose only the good stuff but if we shut ourselves out to protect ourselves from the hurtful stuff, the good stuff will be numbed as well.

      I so agree with your – β€˜to live well is to feel strongly’. Brene Brown says: β€œstrong back, soft front and wild heart” – I absolutely love it. Strong back = boundaries and self-respect are in place, soft front = wilingness to experience and feel all emotions. 😊😍

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a beautiful book!
    I still need to read the second one as well, but i do like the sound of the story turning darker and darker. ❀
    All those myths and folkore bits are so fascinating, and i remember even in the first one Morozko was included and he just came across as normal dude πŸ˜€ With a dark side, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He he, love the normal dude comment – he certainly did come across that way! πŸ˜ƒ

      I love the UK editions of these books. I bought first two as eBooks but I am very tempted to buy their hard copies as well as I know I will be re-reading them and love all their covers. ❀️

      I think you would enjoy those two books, they are much faster paced, twisted and dark. I think reading books 2 and 3 close together will mean you will likely still remember what happened in book 2 (my poor memory did complain about the year long wait he he). πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful review, you describe the series so beautifully I’d be running to the bookstore to get my hands on a copy if I hadn’t already read it ❀️ I’m so excited to read The Winter of the Witch, I’m thrilled we get to see more of Morozko and Vasya’s interactions with Medved. That’ll be compelling reading for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. ❀️

      I am looking forward to discussing it with you once you read it. In other words – I can not wait to read your review of The Winter of the Witch. 😊

      Happy reading! πŸ˜ŠπŸ“š


  6. A great review that really captures why the series is so amazing! I’m really looking forward to this book, with The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower being some of my favourite books that I read last year. Gonna pick it up as soon as it comes out here in the UK!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words.

      I am currently thinking about re-reading the books again as I feel a bit sad that the series is over. These books are some of my favourite books I read last year as well. Happy reading! πŸ“šπŸ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Crossing all my fingers you do enjoy it if you do end up reading it. I do recommend starting with the end of the book – glossary of names – as the names could be really confusing. Happy reading! ❀


  7. I’m so glad this is such a treat and I definitely think from the first two books that this is making its way to being a classic! I’m actually really excited for it to get darker!! So agree that this is one of those book series that reminds me why I read. So excited to read this! Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed this trilogy so so soooo much. Like you said, it reminded me of why I love to read, and the feelings were just gushing over by the end. I had a few nitpicks with it at times, but who honestly cares when a book makes you this emotional?
    Lovely review Vera, and I’m so glad you loved this book too! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! ❀️

      I do sometimes forgive those nitpicks as long as I’m really loving what I’m reading. If you ever review it / want to talk about those nitpicks, I’m all ears! I enjoy reading your critical take! β€οΈπŸ‘Œ

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow this sounds great. And what an amazing cover! I like the sound of this series both for the Russian setting and for the beautiful writing I keep seeing mentioned in reviews. Definitely going to pick these up at some point soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you are enjoying the sound of these Greg. I would be really keen to hear your thoughts if you do read them one day. And I do cross my fingers you will enjoy them!


  10. Okay, this confirms it! I *need* to get a copy of this trilogy! I’ve put it at the top of my TBR, so hopefully I can get to it soon after all my required school & book club readings. This story sounds so beautiful and like a perfect Winter read, so I want to get to it before the weather turns warm in the U.S. again. Thank you for this review, Vera! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crossing all my fingers that you enjoy it! It is such a perfect winter read. ❄️❄️❄️

      I know you are very skilled with languages and that you will pick the Russian nuances really quickly – but for what it’s worth – if you do read it, I would start with the glossary of book 1 first, which is at the back of the book. It explains how Russian names are used and may make it initally a little bit less confusing. πŸ€

      I would love to hear your thoughts if you do read it. Discussing books we have read is always so enjoyable. 😊 Happy reading! ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

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