What a surprising book! When I first started reading, I thought this would be a difficult story for me to get through because I generally don't read books like this. I enjoy adventure stories and fairy tales, but I don't usually read books in the paranormal genre. Unexpectedly, I was pulled right into the story and stayed up late until I finished it.
Vasilisa Petrovna does not want to get married or live in a convent. She loves the outdoors and dreams of exploring the world. She has left her home because her father has died in a tragic manner and the villagers have branded her as a witch. She rides away on her horse, disguised as a boy and looking for a new life. She receives help from Morozko, the Russian winter demon. He helps her escape from several dangerous situations. Unfortunately, evil bandits have been burning villages and kidnapping young Russian girls. When Vasilisa risks her life to save three girls, she makes an enemy and also meets up with her brother, who has been helping their cousin track the bandits. Little does Vasilisa know that there is someone much more menacing and powerful than the bandits behind the crimes, and she will face almost impossible circumstances in order to save her family.
This is the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale, which I had not read before reading this book. It is not absolutely necessary to have read the first book before this one, but it would help clarify the events that occur in this book. This book is set in medieval Russia, and I would classify it as a Russian fairy tale or folk tale with paranormal elements. This book taught me quite a bit about medieval Russian folklore, which was interesting. I didn't like the paranormal elements (ghosts, demons, house spirits, etc.) because of my own personal beliefs, but I thought this story was extremely well written and beautifully descriptive in spite of those elements. I also didn't care for the profanity and a couple of disturbing scenes having to do with sexual abuse, but I know those horrible things happened more frequently back then. I would say this is an adult book because of those things I just mentioned, as well as the violently descriptive scenes that occur. Having said all that, I loved the adventure, plot elements, many-layered characters, and beautiful descriptions in this story. I simply could not wait to find out what happened, and because of that and the beautiful writing I have given this book five stars.
I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.