"Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet."
The Girl in the Tower is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. It continues the interesting introduction of Russian mythology that blends into the faery tale stories, with many of those core aspects of heroism, magic and the supernatural. But it also adds a number of features such as social hierarchy, gender roles and the power of fighting the patriarchal viewpoints of the period.
This book really branched out in terms of the locations depicted. It moved away from the village that The Bear and the Nightingale took place in, and spent a large portion of the book in the extravagant city of Moscow, the capital of Rus. It was a very different setting from the first book, but it was done very well and I enjoyed the challenges Vasya faced in this new world.
"I carve things of wood because things made by effort are more real than things made by wishing."
The plot became more intricate, with multiple stories weaving to and fro, presenting a number of mysteries and events waiting to be solved. I enjoyed the way pieces of information were cleverly trickled to the reader despite the increased pace that the novel adopted. There was one major twist that I predicted early on, but any chance of deflation was overcome through the extra layers that still caused shock. The final phase of the story brought together all the different threads in an excellent manner that I did not anticipate would occur.
Arden writes with a constant fluidity that fit brilliantly with the writing styles I enjoy and allowed me to read from one page to the next and receive enjoyment from every moment in this world.
The historical world building continued and I love the Russian setting and culture that Arden so vividly presents with every minor yet fruitful feature mentioned in her narrative. This aspect is something that I adore as it makes the world realistic with a real depth to it that I wish was included within every book that I read.
"You cannot take vengeance on a whole people because of the doings of a few wicked men."
The magic system matured again but has most definitely not reached its full potential. I hope and imagine the full extent to the system will be revealed in the final of the series. So far it adopts the idea that faith is all that is needed, that someone has to utterly believe the they can do it in order to be successful. I like this idea and it works well with me, even though it was not a unique perspective on the magic system.
The characters had a wide variation from an unusual monk to a frost demon to the main PoV who is battling against the restrictive stereotypes of the period. I enjoyed these characters each in their own right and found that there was no profound weakness with anyone in terms of development.
I enjoyed this book as much as The Bear and the Nightingale. But I was pleased that this book felt more like the formation of a longer story that will continue, instead of a stand-alone that the first novel could have been. It involved me in the plot and has induced a desire to finish the series with The Winter of the Witch.