One cannot help but feel transported away by Katherine Arden’s writing. She eloquently interweaves Russian folklore with horror and adventure that guides us along every twist and turn.
This book ended up surprising me greatly just like the first book did. I could not help but expect more romance and yet, I was not disappointed in the slightest. This book is an excellent tool in the discussion of feminism. Ultimately, the lead character Vasya teaches the audience, and the world around her, that what we do not understand is not necessarily wrong. We just have not properly grasped the idea placed before us. Particularly in Vasya’s home country, it is difficult for civilians to embrace new ideas regarding gender roles.
“Witch. The word drifted across his mind. We call such women so, because we have no other name.” – Katherine Arden, The Girl in the Tower
They are unable to understand when someone behaves differently from the rest and accuse Vasya of being a witch. In reality, they use the excuse of magic because they cannot explain her actions. If this woman’s bravery and a fierce sense of self makes her a witch then let us all be witches and wizards.
Arden’s character acts as a revolution in her own right. While I am certain it was not Vasya’s intent to disrupt the old-fashioned ways of her country, her natural instincts drive her to do exactly that. She sparks fires in the lives she touches. Some choose to love her, others are ruled by their fear of the unknown and despise her. Despite it all, Vasya cares not of the public opinion and fights consistently for her freedom. Unapologetically an independent woman in the face of harsh oppression that means to bring her down.
But she cannot be brought down.
A particularly powerful moment for this character is when she smashes the necklace that is tied to the Winter King. This immortal being was captured by her spirit and used that strength as his own until she discovered what he had been doing. Yet despite his mistake, she brought him back when he had faded away with the changing seasons. She pulled him from the shadows and encouraged him to be more than the lonesome god he makes himself out to be. Vasya brings the people around her up to there feet and shows them that what they perceive as impossible may not be so. While she clearly cares for the Winter King and his companionship, she throws him away as soon as he comes between her and the prospect of freedom. Nothing, not even an immortal god can tie Vasya down and that, dear readers, is exactly what makes her an incredibly powerful figure to be admired. She breaks down barriers.
Not often do I read of characters like Vasya but I hope this book inspires others to write of such powerful women. Let us fill the world with people that vanquish the boundaries surrounding femininity. I cannot express how excited I am for the next book in this series. Until then, I won’t forget the wonderful experience I had reading these books. Thank you Katherine Arden, for blessing the world with a truly unforgettable heroine like Vasya.