The Winter of the Witch: A Nightmarish Finale

The Winter of the Witch: A Nightmarish Finale

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

The Winter of the Witch

Series: Winternight Trilogy #3
Author: Katherine Arden
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 384
Format: eARC
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Cover Artist: Barbara M. Bachman
My Rating: ★★★½

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

1) The Bear and the Nightingale: ★★★
2) The Girl in the Tower: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley. Thank you! All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the final publication.

description

BLURB: Vasya travels through a realm of Midnight, encounters creatures of nightmares, and makes deals with devils in order to save the realm of monsters and men.

description

This lovely series has finally come to a close (so sad!) After loving The Girl in the Tower, my expectations skyrocketed for this final installment. There were several aspects that I loved, but there were some aspects that I didn’t like and feel a need to discuss. My reaction to this entire series, despite its entrancing qualities, has been a roller-coaster. {book: The Bear and the Nightingale] was sort of a miss for me, but The Girl In The Tower swept me away. {book:The Winter of the Witch] sits somewhere in-between.

Note: It is difficult to review the final book in a series without there being some spoilers. If you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale or {book: The Girl in the Tower] yet, proceed at your own risk!

With that being said, The Winter of the Witch brims with Slavic lore. I can’t say that I’ve read a book (besides Juliette Mariller’s works) with such a variety of creatures, and so thoughtfully placed within the story. I think one would need to be a historian of some sort to fit all of the pieces together. It is without the shadow of a doubt that this entire series is well written. Every time I read a book from this series, I felt as though I stepped into a window and was entirely absorbed into the setting. I could see the desolation and destruction between the rivaling sides, hear the whispers of otherworldly creatures, and feel the wintry chill settling underneath my skin. Despite this fact, there were also points and feelings that were misplaced throughout this read.

Things that I liked:

They are the most marvelous things in all the world, the horses of this land.

Ok, so this is by far not the most important point, but I’m going to start this list off with: HORSES!

Okay, more than that, the lore! I love so very much that so many important characters are horses. I didn’t realize until later in this series that horses in Slavic lore are their own kind of “mythical” creature, often being able to talk and have magical powers. Considering that the Nightingale, the Fire Bird, the raven, along with other symbolic birds take on the form of horses, I thought it made these characters all the more interesting.

Two other characters I found to be very interesting was how the two brothers’, Morozko and Medved, stories interacted. I had a difficult time grasping the Bear’s character in The Bear and the Nightingale. I felt that his maliciousness was confusing and not fully explained. Well, his story makes much more sense after reading this final installment. Not only that, I felt as though his character was finally viewable as a whole, instead of in bits and pieces. (As I stated in my review for The Bear and the Nightingale, I think I was the problem, and not necessarily the book.) As I stated above, this book has so much folklore. It was really interesting reading it, and learning about new folklore that has been around for a very long time. The way that lore intertwined with historical events is simply stunning.


Things that I didn’t like:

Morally, I can’t agree that I’m happy with the way Vasya’s character ended up. Yes, I am well aware that this is fantasy. I totally understand that. But to be honest, I’m rating this book higher than I morally should because I know that it is, in fact, fantasy. However, when it mentions several times over that Vasya’s soul is damned, I can’t sit back and say, “Ahh, it’s fantasy.” I have issues with this fact. Also, this book, this entire series, makes an effort to point out “Christianity” (loosely termed as there are many denominations with little specification given as to the exact beliefs the priests/monks represented) vs. paganism. If religion had been left completely out of it, I wouldn’t find it as necessary to mention.

Sergei lifted his hand and made the sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father,” he said.
Astonishingly, the dead things froze. Even the Bear stilled at the sound of that voice. Somewhere in the dark, a bell began to ring.
A touch of fear showed even in the winter-king’s eyes.
The lightning flashed again, illuminating Konstantin’s face, which had gone slack with horrified wonder. Vasya thought, He believed there was nothing more in this world than devils and his own will.
Sergei’s praying was quiet, measured. But his cut through the hammering rain, and every word echoed clearly around the dooryard.
The dead still didn’t move.
“Be at peace,” finished Sergei. “Do not trouble the living world again.”
And, impossibly, all the dead crumpled to earth. Morozko breathed out a single, shattered breath. The powers of the younger world had spoken.

There have been a lot of bad things done in history in the name of religion, in the name of Christianity. This is one point that I think this series captures well. HOWEVER, I think it also gives the religion exemplified a bad name because of Konstantin’s actions and decisions. While there are other priests present, (Sasha, Vasya’s sister) who are good, their actions are completely shadowed by the bad Konstantin does. Once Konstantin travels down this destructive path, it gives the notion that religion is fake and/or the religious are corrupt and hypocrites. (I mean, isn’t this the “go to” blame game that people like to use against people who identify as Christians nowdays?) Honestly, I felt like this book, while retaining some of its original intentions, became more of a tool for propaganda.

I wanted to point out that a person, if they identify with a religion or not, have the choice to follow its teachings or to make their own decisions. Whether those choices are morally correct or not, it is their choice. This is why religion gets a bad name, because people who have the ability to sin are its representatives. They try and strive to follow the rules laid out to them, but will never be perfect because it’s not possible.

The “relationship between Morozko and Vasya is downright odd. While they obviously like one another, Vasya certainly likes him more–but I don’t understand why she likes him. Morozko is a demon who doesn’t have human emotions…or emotions that are not really comparable to humans? Due to this, there is an odd tension between the two. At a several points, they are caught bickering with one another, and it just feels awkward unmerited. I kept thinking, why do you like one another, again? For a short while, I even fancied the idea that Vasya would end up with Oleg instead of Morozko. Their issues with one another is never really discussed or finalized at the end of the book. They bicker, and…that’s that.

Which leads right into the next point: Vasya’s feministic characteristics. First things first: I don’t like the mentality that women don’t need men, or men are idiots, or men are not capable of leading, or…[fill in the blank]. I don’t agree with feminism and how it is identified today. A LOT of these notions shine their unhealthy light through Vasya and Morozko’s relationship.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting read in regards to the lore. I didn’t always agree with how characters were portrayed, and felt that there was some misrepresentation going on. This was a difficult review for me to write, as the more I wrote, the more I recognized that I had issues with. I get what the author was trying to do here, in bringing the world of chyerti and world of Christianity together. She even stated it in her Author’s Note:

And perhaps, beneath the battle recorded by history, there was fought another, between holy men and chyerti, over how they were to coexist in this land of theirs. Who knows? But the concept of dvoeveriye, dual faith, persisted in Russia up until the Revolution. Orthodoxy coexisted with paganism in peace. Who is to say that wasn’t the work of a girl with strange gifts and green eyes? Who is to say, in the end, that the three guardians of Russia are not a witch, a frost-demon, and a chaos-spirit?

Again, I know this is a fantasy, and I’m not trying to discredit that. However, for people reading this book, it may give them a negative view on certain aspects that weren’t represented as they should be.

Vulgarity: Some.
Sexual content: (view spoiler)
Violence: Quite a bit.

My Rating: ★★★½

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