Many of you will know of my love affair with the Winternight Trilogy. A Russian fairy tale retelling, full of wonder and magic, it was only natural I fell head over heels for it. My admiration reached fever pitch with the second instalment, as it went to deliciously dark places and blew my mind with its intensity. Needless to say, I was eager for the finale. And *WOW*, it did not disappoint.
Thrown straight back into Arden’s wintery world, the story promised action and beauty from start. With writing as gorgeous as the last two books, this picked up immediately from where Girl in the Tower left off and felt literally darker from the outset. I was utterly absorbed every time I picked it up. Indeed, it was a most welcome return to the story.
Unlike the first two books, which almost felt like self-contained stories, this leaned heavily on the earlier narratives. Plotwise it was a completely wild ride. The story bolts forward from the first page, bearing enchanting little gifts…
…Only to throw you from the horse and break your heart a little. Because this gives us some seriously moving moments. From the romance to the family connections, this story didn’t let up for a second. Again and again, the narrative took risks and delivered on an emotional level that somehow surpassed the previous books. I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’ll say is that it brought tears to my eyes more than once.
Beyond that, the story travelled into far deeper territory than I could have expected. Building on the previous world building, Winter of the Witch takes the reader into the realm of storytelling and dreams. Entering into the land of midnight, it feels like the heroine is moving around the globe like the second hand on a clock. In this patchwork country, the very notion of reality is questioned.
This intriguing idea was further developed in the characterisation. What I especially liked about this aspect was how it presented the idea that magic can drive you to distraction- if you change too much reality, you might forget what is real. Not only did this present a brilliant consequence for magic, it also allowed for so much of the main character’s growth and forced her to push herself to the limit.
And Vasya isn’t the only one who’s stretched here. Every character is challenged- including some of the more demonic beings. Which allows for another interesting development: this story creates confusion over what is and isn’t monstrous. This presents such a nuanced, clever take on monsters in fairy tales. It’s a point of eye-widening genius; it’s a powerful take on the complexity of good vs evil.
Above all, the story presents a notion of unity. Not only does this tie together the strands of the first and second books, but it also draws this in line with historical events. Incredibly, Arden answers some of the questions I’ve seen about the first book, especially pertaining to the representation of Christianity as opposed to Paganism. This is particularly subverted by Sasha’s role as priest- which I was kind of remiss not to mention in my last review – especially as he plays an even greater part here (also I can’t be the only one to have been remind of Alyosha Karamazov- which made him an instant favourite 😉 ). In the end, the concepts were married together superbly and, at least for me, everything clicked into place.
Ultimately it was a sensational end to a sensational series. I believe I had a fair amount of faith in this finale- but even so, it was better than I ever could have imagined. All the wishing wells, genies and shooting stars in the world couldn’t have conceived something so magical. If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling, this is quite simply something you need to check out. It’s very rare for me to give a whole series all the bananas- and yet here we are:
Rating: 5/5 bananas
Also look how pretty all my books look together:
So is anyone surprised that I loved this? 😉 And have you read this? Do you plan to? What do you think of the Winternight series? Let me know in the comments!