Last year’s The Bear and the Nightingale was one of my favourite reads of the year: a feel-good adventure story about a young girl overcoming a threat to her village with the help of the fairies and other mythical beings that live near her Russian home. The Girl in the Tower (review copy from Penguin Random House) is the sequel, and second book in the trilogy.
The Girl in the Tower picks up straight after the events of the first book. Mourning her family and lacking a place in the world, Vasya decides to try her luck in the world, riding out dressed as a boy and with a pocket full of silver. She finds herself on the trail of bandits burning villages, before accidentally meeting up with her brother Sasha, travelling to Moscow and finding herself pitted against another of Morozko the frost demon’s bitter enemies.
This is a classic – and winning – formula. A tomboyish girl fighting against the gendered conventions of her time, a magical horse, adventure, peril and a happy ending. Arden ups the stakes in this sequel, with Vasya also fighting to save her niece from a cloistered life as a Russian noblewoman within the even more constrained environment of the Moscow court. Vasya continues to be impulsive, wilful and an utter delight.
Goodreads rating: 4*