“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you,” she said at last fiercely. “But my life is not your game.”
this book is that rare second-in-a-trilogy novel that aspires to be more than just a bridge of clockwatching filler between two points. it actually does what the second-in-a-trilogy book should do, but rarely accomplishes – it progresses the action and allows the character some elbow room in which to grow; to become what the challenges of the third book will require them to be. many middle books seem content to wallow, bloated, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to cash that third-book paycheck, but this one allows for tremendous growth in vasya’s character, presents a situation steadily increasing in danger and complexity, and it is fiery and ferocious as all hell.
i loved this one every bit as much as The Bear and the Nightingale. it is perfect historical fantasy, which is not a genre i read overmuch, but you don’t have to be an expert in a genre to identify when it is being pulled off perfectly – where the historical details are as quietly compelling as the mythological or fantastical ones, and the writing is lushly detailed in both the gauzy romantic moments and the grit and filth and boredom of the less-embellished realities of 14th century russia. boring for highborn women, anyway, who must live and die in towers.
the book is a perfect balance of classical and modern storytelling; descriptions pretty and poetic:
–Men lived too near the bone in winter to bother with things that did not concern them.
–Her fear was a wild thing’s fear when the dogs are running.
heroine feminist and fierce:
Sudden anger burned out Vasya’s gathering hurt. She pushed back her chair and stood again. “I am not a dog,” she snapped. “You may tell me to go home, but I may choose not to. Do you think that is all I want, in all my life – a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me?”
vasya is a firecracker. accused of witchcraft, doomed by tradition to the confines of marriage or the convent, she decides “nahhhh, imma dress like a dude and ride a magic horse and boss around a deity and have badass adventures instead!*”
she’s had to leave so much of herself behind, but she really expands to fill her own heroic storyline. and yeah, having a deus ex machina on retainer does alleviate some of the personal risk, but it wasn’t an overused “out”, and the vasya/morozko relationship has its own awkward learning curves:
“How did you take the rabbit?” she asked, turning the meat with deft, greasy hands. Nearly ready. “There was no mark on it.”
Twin flames danced in his crystalline eyes. “I froze its heart.”
Vasya shuddered and asked no more.
so, not all hearts and flowers (and necklaces) and rescuing a (secret) damsel in distress. i appreciate that their interactions are shaped enough like romance to please romance fans without alienating me and my preferences for horseback battles and derring-do.
i’m unwilling to write a detailed review of this one. with two books on the table, it’s too easy to attract one of those “i am unclear about what constitutes an actual spoiler, but i’m going to scold you tirelessly about it for hours anyway!” folks. i will say that there was some foreshadowing in this one (carried over from the first book) that’s already got me bracing myself for despair.
which i welcome. i am ready for book three, whatever the emotional cost.
this was a buddy-read with tadiana and steven! here are their reviews:
* not, obviously, an actual quote. it’s not that modern.
in what is certainly the most difficult decision anyone has ever had to make – i have been salivating for this book, and i was thrilled when i got approved to read it through netgalley at the beginning of the month, but i am only reading horror for october and i keep worrying about it over there waiting for me, thinking i am not interested in it, but i AM! i’m coming for you soon, book! after the horrors!