The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.
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.
I was delighted when I was offered a copy of the this book from the publisher. I had previously read and enjoyed the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale.
Medieval Russia. Not your typical fantasy world setting, and I loved my visit to it. The details are rich, and the story ran smoothly. Unlike the first book, the pacing of this book was swift, which is fitting as our heroine, Vasya, is swept up in an adventure.
I did have a few issues with it though as a reader, and other sensitive readers may as well. The big one was the use of adult language in a few parts. (To be blunt, it was the b word that did it for me.) For a well built world such as this narrative, that was shocking and drew me out of the story.
Now for the good, and one of my personal favorites: Morozko. Need I say more? I loved the frost-demon in the first book, and was glad he was back. His story is intriguing and I do feel we don’t get enough of that. His mare barely sheds insight on it, in what is a most poignant scene between the two, when she tells him that he cannot love and be immortal. I wish for more of him, and his story. (And really hope it’s in book three. Which, dear publisher, can I also have to read early?)
Another favorite is the stallion, Solovey. His steadfast devotion really shines. (I think he’s there because Morozko can’t always be there.)
And of course, we have an excellent villain in the red sorcerer, Kachei the Deathless.
Roxbury Book Rating: PG 13 Adult language, violence with bloodshed, some nudity (nonsexual), and sexual situations.
See my review for the first book:
This book is a little gem. The start was slow, but it really built the story up. Once Vasya was grown, the story really started moving. I wish there had been more between Vasya and Moroko. I felt I really got to know the other characters, but not so much of Moroko. I loved the personalities of the horses, and other fairy folk.
This was my first foray into Russian folklore, and it won’t be my last. This book brings that world to life, and gives it just enough of a Russian feel with out being intimidating. I’m going to re-read this one in paperback so I can smell the pages as I read it.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.