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The Girl in the Tower: It’s Russian Mulan, but it’s Still Pretty Great.

Updated on November 30, 2019

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Last winter I read a fantasy booked called The Bear and the Nightingale and I loved it. It was so unique, imaginative, and just great all around becoming one of my favorite books. After finishing it, I wanted to read the sequel, but when I found the sequel, it was expensive. So I decided to wait for a sale. So I waited. First weeks. Then months. Now a year later, it has not went on sale. And it was beginning to bother me that the next part of Vasya’s adventure was so pricey. So I decided just to bite the bullet to read the second book in the series. Here is any review of The Girl in Tower by Katherine Arden.

The book follows Vasya. A young woman who grew up in a frozen village in Russia. She can see what others cannot. This includes wood spirits, gods, ghosts and the Winter King himself. After the events of the last book, her home believes her to be a witch, so she dresses herself as a boy and runs away from home with the aid of the Winter King. She soon sees the world outside her village for the first time. She soon learns that Tarters are raiding and burning down villages. She saves some girls who have been kidnapped and impresses the grand prince of Russia with her actions. He invites her to help him fight the Tartars. She agrees and impresses him further. He welcomes her into the inner circle of his companions in Moscow. And she loves it. For once she feels like she found her place in the world. But she knows well it can’t last long because she will be killed if they discover she’s girl, but she keeps on getting pulled deeper and deeper into the mess. All the meanwhile she meets her brother and sister who are disappointed and disgusted by her. The Winter King also continues to warn her to leave before it’s too late.

So the good and the bad. Let’s start with the good. First of all, Vasya is a wonderful lead. She is such a strong character and this is such a personal story for her. The emotional moments hit so hard when they happen because she is just such a strong character. The story and setting is steeped deep in Russian folklore and it gives the story such an undeniable unique flavor. It all seems so new and fresh compared to most other fantasies. The story itself does not break new ground. It feels like a Russian version of Mulan for the most part, but it is done so well with just enough changes that it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The setting is also so unique.

The bad? The story is not as original as the first novel. The first novel had a tale so original that I never seen before. This, though a very tense story, is a tad predictable and is something we all seen before. Then when she leaves her home in this story, every male character with the exception of her brother are pretty awful. Sexism is thick in this book, but it may have been that way in medieval Russia. The little I learned about Russian history in college does reflect a grim picture and this may be historically accurate. It’s just a sad world for women in this book and some people may not want to read that if it bothers them. And lastly, the biggest issue is this book has an eleventh hour villain. Most of the novel is about Vasya falling deeper and deeper into this mess and fifty pages from the end a villain shows his face. It’s random and out of place. It’s almost as if the author realized she forgot to put in a villain until she was approaching the end of the novel. The villain introduction and resolution seemed very rushed.

Overall, this book was wonderful despite its flaws. Yes, it’s Russian Mulan, but that’s not a bad thing. The lore is so unique. The setting is both beautiful and cruel. And this creates a fascinating tale, which though not as good as the first book, is still one of the best fantasies I ever read. I recommend this to everyone who enjoys the fantasy genre. This is a must read.

4 smoothies out of Four.

Overall Rating: It’s Russian Mulan, but it’s still pretty great.

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