*Light spoilers ahead for The Bear in the Nightingale, the first in the Winternight Trilogy*
In her follow up to 2016’s The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden once again breathes magic and excitement into Russian folk and fairy tales. Picking up where the first book in the Winternight Trilogy left off, Vasilisa Petrovna is compelled to leave home lest she either be sent to a convent or tried as a witch. While travelling with Solovey (and a little help from Morozko), Vasya soon discovers it’s not quite so easy to be a woman with agency in the world. But a new threat is beginning to emerge: villages are being burned, young girls stolen from their families, and a new Prince has appeared in Moscow. Vasya, her monk brother Sasha, and her sister Olga get tangled in the social and gender politics of Moscow while facing choices between love and duty. Even more enticing than the first book, The Girl in the Tower is a welcomed return Russian winters and nights, now with nods to historical figures and events of the 14th century. Vasya’s relationship with the Frost King from the first book finds finds more depth, while new characters - and new myths - are added in just the right balance. I often struggle with sequels and series, but with a tight narrative, compelling adventure, and new thematic exploration, The Girl in the Tower is a very welcome winter night read.