I know I said I was going to do the February Rearview next, but I kind of forgot that I was going to review this trilogy first. I read the first book at the end of February, and then the rest of the trilogy at the beginning of March. But since this ended up being my favorite book of the month, it seemed like I should review it with the February books!!
- The Bear and the Nightingale
- The Girl in the Tower
- The Winter of the Witch
I’ve had these books on my radar for a while and have heard a lot of good things about them. But sometimes that doesn’t match up to my expectations, so I wasn’t completely sure what I was going to get.
These books are a bit too complicated for a brief synopsis, but they are medieval Russian in setting and focus on a young woman who can see and speak with “the old gods” aka household spirits. At this time, the Church is moving through the countryside and telling people they need to stop believing in/praying to/etc the old ones. But because Vasya can see and speak with them, she knows that these creatures play an important part in the wellbeing of the people, and that it is belief that keeps them alive. As fewer people believe in them, they are fading away, leaving homes and villages unprotected. There was a LOT going on here, and I absolutely raced through these books. While the second book did suffer a bit from second-book syndrome, overall the action just didn’t let up – honestly, these books genuinely stressed me out!!! There were times I just wanted to grab Vasya to keep her from making the wrong choice!!! And look, if someone constantly threatens you and your family and everyone you love and wants to destroy all of you, I’m not saying you should go out and kill that guy but… maybe stop saving his life?!?!
Here was the biggest issue I had with these books, and it may sound nit-picky to some, but hey, this is my blog. These magical creatures are just that – magical creatures. They aren’t gods, and the people don’t really worship them per se, they just do things like leave out a bowl of milk in exchange for the creature protecting the house, that sort of thing. In short, I didn’t think of these beings as being religious in any way, good or evil. Consequently, it really bothered me that Arden referred to them almost uniformly as “demons.” I understood why the people who couldn’t see the creatures would think of them that way – invisible beings lurking about. But demons are, you know, connected to hell and serve satan, and these creatures did not do that. So, in fact, they were not demons, and it annoyed me that they were called that constantly. In the end, Vasya works hard to help the church people see how the household magic creatures actually help the people and do not detract from the people worshiping God. I could honestly 100% get behind the church working with magical beings, but the church working with demons?? NO. Literally the OPPOSITE of all church teachings! I would have loved this story so much more if the word “demon” had only been used by ignorant people who didn’t really understand the nature of the magic creatures. Here’s the thing – if you’re reading a story that involves dryads or naiads, you don’t consider them demonic – and that’s literally the same type of thing that these creatures were. I honestly believe that if God wanted, He could have (and who knows, maybe He did!) create magic and creatures who are magic. But by calling them demons, you have automatically placed them in the anti-God category, which means I can’t exactly get excited about the church working with them, if that makes sense.
So anyway, that got super rambly, but it was honestly my biggest (and almost my only) issue with these books. I loved these characters, loved the concept, loved the execution, loved the setting, loved the pacing. I’ll definitely reread these at some point as well. If you enjoy fantasy, these are definitely worth a read.