*Received this book off Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the gushing you’re about to see is all me*
And dark, and scary and made me feel all tingly. For anyone that doesn’t remember all the way back to December, I fell absolutely head over heels for Bear and the Nightingale, the first in the Winternight Trilogy. So when I received a last minute ARC for the second one, there was actual screaming, guys. And when I got to the end of this, well, let’s just say this raised my love to practically fever pitch.
Straightaway I was plunged into Arden’s atmospheric world. With stunning visuals, chuckle-worthy dialogue and mysteries building, I found myself sucked straight back in. Most of my notes devolved to just “WOW” and “AMAZING” pretty quickly. Cos let me tell you, everything about Arden’s writing is wonderful. The haunting style made me shivery and weak at the knees.
From the outset, I felt a creeping sense of dread and that didn’t let up until the crazy-dramatic end. You know that cliché “I hadn’t realised I’d been holding my breath”- well I exhaled (loudly) when I got to the end and I hadn’t realised I’d been holding my breath- so there you go, proof it actually happens. I was so absorbed in the good old fashioned storytelling that I didn’t notice. Nor I did I notice the night ticking away until it was Crazy O Clock in the morning and the story was done (whoops).
Timeless and magical, the plot loops round, playing with strands of the story and then joining the threads. When I could finally see the full tapestry, my face cracked into a smile of pure joy– it’s been a while since I’ve seen chronology twisted so successfully. This seemingly slight touch allowed minor characters to step more into the spotlight, which was excellently done. Carefully, characterisation through the eyes of others and through the smallest of gestures, brought the world more vividly to life. Little things, like the humorous horse character, made my toes curl in pleasure.
And speaking of pleasure, the romance in this book melted my heart. There were only hints of romance in the previous book and, even though I discussed it offline, I’d been scared of scaring it away- but man I wanted this. I don’t know where it’s going, since there’s a terrifying combination of miscommunication and magic involved, but I’m loving the slow build so far. Arden sure knows how to take her time.
I also loved the direction Vasya took in this book. She’s certainly grown into an increasingly wonderful heroine. As with the last book, I loved her unconventionality, her cleverness and how unusual she was (including her looks). She’s such a great role model for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider. And what made her even more powerful was the presence of a truly killer villain. He both mirrored her and reflected back her goodness with darkness… and I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers. But he’s a good un (well, technically bad 😉 )
What was incredible was how much more complexity and scope there was to Girl in the Tower. There were multiple layers to the story and I felt like there was so much more under the surface, waiting to be discovered. I honestly don’t feel like one review could do it justice (I can already see that I would benefit from rereading this story). One thing I will say that I enjoyed the most about this book was the elements of appearance vs reality. The hidden world of folklore, tucked out of sight for most people, gave the impression that there was more to this reality than meets the eye. I really appreciated how that theme bled into the narrative, the character’s gestures even and the portrayal of different beliefs. I marvelled how the unseen and the seen blurred together at moments, in a way that screamed UNCANNY and UNSETTLING. I revelled in what could be regarded as a clash of civilisations.
Ultimately, this book took everything about the first book and made it better. No middle book syndrome here- only pure, unadulterated bliss. I’d read a few reviews and thought “pff could it be better?”- the answer is yes, yes it could and it was. And I must say it was perfect with hot chocolate and Bailey’s after an exhausting day 😉
Rating: 5/5 bananas
Have you read this or the first one? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!