Review of Katherine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finding Russian fairy tales is a difficult task. Finding retellings of Russian fairy tales that capture the imagination – and weave in the world of fourteenth-century Russia – is something even rarer. Yet Ms. Arden manages to do so. The Bear and the Nightingale was pure magic, and she continues her sorcery with the second volume of the trilogy. You feel the biting cold with every word, and she encourages you to look for chyerti around you. The world she’s created is genuine and vibrant and alive in a way many books based on fairy tales fail. And woven through everything, you get the old familiar (at least to me) tales in a fresh light. My only complaint? The final confrontation fell flat. Vasya’s sudden knowledge of the necklace around Tamara’s necklace – with no breadcrumbs leading to the moment – brushed on a deus ex machina moment. While it played well into the tale (much more so than the original tale of Kaschei the Deathless), the reader needed a REASON to understand the necklace’s existence. Had Ms. Arden but thought through that pivotal moment, the book would have come through as pure genius.

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