First, let me say that the writing in this is gorgeous. Reading the prologue you can practically feel the snow falling around you while you breathe in the frozen night air...
"Their tracks stretched far into the forest, half- swallowed by new snow.
Suddenly the horse halted and raised his head. Among the rattling trees in front of them lay a fir- grove. The firs’ feathery boughs twined together, their trunks bent like old men.
The snow fell faster, catching in the girl’s eyelashes and in the gray fur of her hood. There was no sound but the wind." (3)
Absolutely magical, right?
If only I could simply praise the writing and move on...
My problem with this book started with the first chapter. While it began as beautifully as the prologue...
"Two rivers gashed the skin of the Russian forest, and Moscow lay at their joining, atop a pine- clad hill. Her squat, white walls enclosed a jumble of hovels and churches; her palaces’ ice- streaked towers splayed like desperate fingers against the sky. As the daylight faded, lights kindled in the towers' high windows." (7)
...once the characters began making their entrance, I began to stumble. HARD.
A table or some kind of hint at pronunciation would have REALLY made this far more enjoyable and less...confusing? Frustrating? Both? Instead, I found myself making up names in place of the ones that were there or, in some cases, simply skipping the name altogether. Any magic that was in the tale of the Snow Maiden was quickly unravelled as ''Snegurochka" became nothing but 'Snow Girl.' It was even more frustrating when Olga's eldest daughter, first introduced as Marya, picked up two additional names near the end of the chapter: Masha and Matyushka.
Yep. Reading that first chapter was pretty awful.
Like going from a magical journey in a snow filled forest to a mystical cluster*ck. It was a literal snowstorm of words and. it.was.maddening.
The worst part?
It could've all been avoided with a simple chart.
But, that HUGE headache aside, the story was quite intriguing. Although this is the second book in The Winternight Trilogy, I was easily able to follow the story without having read The Bear and the Nightingale.
Overall, the world building and lyrical writing style is more than enough for me to overlook its one headache inducing fault and I would definitely love to read more.
As for the cover, it's positively stunning. The colours, the illustration, the movement, all works together to lend a breathtaking element to this potentially magical read.