*Spoilers for The Bear and the Nightingale below:
The Girl in the Tower is the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale– a powerful story with beautiful imagery and descriptions of cold Russian winters that take your breath away. Vasya continues her tale of seeing what others cannot and how the old gods are being replaced by the new, and how that effects the world she lives in.
In The Girl in the Tower Vasya flees her home of Lesnaya Zemlya after putting the Bear back to sleep but at the expense of her father’s life. Upon her great horse Solovey, she sets out to see the world and travels south, but fate has more challenges yet. Being about to see chyerti, devils, she keeps returning to the Winter King Morozko, and him to her.
She rides her way to Moscow disguised as a boy and rescues girls from the bandits that have been plaguing the villages. She is reunited with her siblings she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl, though it is not the happy reunion Vasya envisioned. Vasya cannot help but be drawn to the mysteries that are Kasyan Lutovich, a ghost haunting her niece, the Winter King himself, the wonders of the city of Moscow and the trouble that comes with it.
This is not a sequel that you can jump in and hope to understand all the emotions and relationships built in the first novel. I was glad to be back with rash and abrasive Vasya, but I was disappointed with a few things. The most disappointing part of this novel is the loss of language. All the wonderful imagery and descriptions really fell away from this one. The writing isn’t bad, but there wasn’t as much finesse as The Bear and the Nightingale. The second was with the small amount of chyerti she interacted with. They seem to only exist for plot convenience or exist in the periphery. Instead, we get a Vasya who has to adapt to this new world where all these creatures are fading and Moscow is under political turmoil. Her family she was excited to see turns out complex and difficult to consolidate remembered and current personalities. Sasha struggles as a man of the cloth, friend, warrior, brother, and person. Olga must be regal and hold all her love and emotions close. I really enjoy Vasya’s time with the Winter King Morozko. They have an intense and complicated relationship that is explained through Morozko and his horse. The relationship comes across like a YA romance- which I enjoy but felt a bit formulaic. The plot could go any number of ways, and the reader does know what will happen until you hit the climax. It is impressive with its cross of fairy tale and historic Moscow which kept me devouring the pages. The story ends at a place of hope, but also unfinished. There will definitely be a third book (it is called The Winternight Trilogy after all) and I will be reading the third one when it comes out.
I couldn’t put it down, I enjoyed the creatures, the plot, and I really want to see how the next one ends, but I can’t help be but a little disappointed in the loss of language and the sequel feel of The Girl in the Tower.
The Girl in the Tower is out December 5. (Del Rey Books, $27.00, ISBN 1101885963).