Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.
So, yeah. I’m in love.
And not just with Morozko, the best frost demon to ever frost demon. This is everything I loved about the previous book, just now there’s more pages and also Vasya has a knife and an amazing little niece and there’s more Russian folklore and save me from my love of this book before it kills me.
Vasya is still her stubborn, rash, brave, selfless self. Yes, it gets her into trouble sometimes. Yes, we still love and support her anyways.
And we ship her with the frost demon. She’s so stubborn! I love it! Someone will literally be there like, Vasya, if you travel alone in the forest, you’ll probably die!and she’s like WELL I GUESS I HAVE TO TRAVEL ALONE IN THE FOREST NOW and I have never related to someone more.
Another high point of the new setting and new characters is Masha, Vasya’s little niece who’s going to grow up to be either Vasya 2.0 or Lyanna Mormont and I am here for either of those outcomes. I really hope we get to see more of her in the next book. Or she gets her own spin off series, because I am trash for little girls who are about seven but so bossy and confident. May all our daughters be like them.
Just, speaking of characters in general, I’d like to give a hand to Katherine Arden for her A+ handling of female characters in a historical fantasy setting. Obviously, Russia in the early middle ages was no feminist paradise, but it would be really easy to frame the women who are surviving within the system as weaker or less than but no, they’re all complex, nuanced characters who are just trying to do their best in a world which gives them exactly 0.00000827 of a choice in how their lives are going to go. We might not agree with all of them, but we understand where they are coming from, which somehow so many authors seem to forget is important.
The fairytale atmosphere is still very present, despite the fact that we’re in the Big City now. A few more famous figures from Russian fables put in guest appearances. (I wonder who we’ll get to see in the final book!) And, of course, the scenes between Vasya and Morozko are gold (or should I say silver and shining like snow? hahahaha murder me)
Also, Vasya gets a knife. And gives zero fucks about any expectations anyone has for her, whether they be a man, another woman, or a frost demon. She just does her own thing and I am here for it .
So, yeah. I loved the first book in this series. I love this book. I’m trying to be all poetic and do it justice, but I can’t. I’m just flailing with love over here. Read these books. Read them! Yes, you. Read.