The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. In the first book of the series, The Bear and the Nightingale the story introduced readers to young Vasilisa who lived at the edge of the Russian wilderness where winter lasts most of the year with her father and siblings. It was there that Vasilisa and the children gathered around the fire at night and listened to the tale of Frost, a much feared blue eyed winter demon that will claim wary souls. The children learned that as much as Frost is feared they must honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.
Vasilisa was different from other children, she was able to see the spirits that surround the land around the family. With a bit of a wild side Vasilisa spent her time roaming the forest and interacting with the spirits. After Vasilisa's mother passed away her father traveled to Moscow to find a new wife. The new stepmother shared Vasilisa's vision and forbid the interaction with what she thought were demons in her new home and with promise of either being married off or sent to a convent Vasilisa ran off to encounter Frost.
Now in the second book of the series Vasilisa is now a brave young woman and determined to see the world. Vasya has her strong horse gifted to her from the frost demon and sets out on a journey disguising herself as a young boy so that she will be left alone and not forced to marry or be sent to a convent. Even with calling herself a new name and her disguise Vasya quickly finds trouble out on her journey which ends up leading her to Moscow and her siblings she has not seen in years.
The Winternight Trilogy is a historical fantasy read that is heavily influenced by Russian folklore and fairy tales. The author again did a wonderful job in my opinion with the world building and characters in this story to make a reader feel like it was medieval Russia in the bitter cold as the story developed.
My biggest complaint from the first book was that the story was such a slow pace while building up this world but that seems to have been answered in this second book. It got off to a tad bit of a slow start but as the action began the story really kept at a nice pace this time but still kept the details that brings the reader into medieval Russia and following along with the characters. In the end I'd rate this one at 4.5 stars, an improvement over the first book which is a nice surprise since the middle of a trilogy often taper off and this one seemed to improve.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.