The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)
by Katherine Arden

I gave the first two books in this series five stars. The past couple of years I’ve LOVED the Eastern European folk tales basis of books in the Winternight Trilogy, Bardugo’s Grisha, Rossner’s Sisters of the Winter Wood and of course, my everlasting love, Novik’s Uprooted.

Winter, Slavic folktales, plucky young heroines, fire and ice and lonely, stoice, long-suffering magicians..what’s not to love?

The Winter of the Witch has all the above in spades, we pick up right where the second book leaves off with Vasya Petrovna having saved Moscow from a Tartar and a Magician’s unholy alliance at terrible cost– the city burned. Now her old nemesis, the priest Konstantin, riles up the populace to accuse her of being a witch.

Vasya’s route to the river burning cage is quite horrific. Arden pulls no punches, literally. And from there, we are instantly thrust into a dreamlike journey through Midnight for Vasya to save herself and find Morozko. Don’t get me wrong, this book packs quite an emotional punch. Especially for the lovely, juicy, painful irony of how Vasya and the Bear must interact. But about halfway through I felt that the Bear’s machinations in Moscow had gone on too long, and I yearned for Vasya and Morozko to reunite (and all the shippers will be pleased by the bath house scene I do believe).

And I loved Pozhar the firebird/horse for both her skittishness and wry voice. However.

There’s a whole nother third of the book beyond the settling of Moscow’s fate and Morozko’s saving. It’s when the Tatars invade and culminates in the historically real battle of Kulikovo wherein Vasya rouses the Chyerti and helps Dmitri fight. There’s a lot of cool uses of chyerti here (should out to Mushroom Grandfather!) and strategizing and Vasya totally killing it as the single most useful person on the field. That part was very exciting and wonderful…but it came after the whole feels-too-long part, so didn’t get the emotional attention from me it deserved.

And there was also quite a lot of Vasya promising to different people to return places that got a little over-used I do believe, although I am satisfied by the ending: an appropriately painful sacrifice was made, an uneasy balance struck, and my romance hunger appeased. Fitting ending to this marvelous trilogy, but a little bit uneven in pacing.