First Book $1.99 as of December 2, 2023
Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.
Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village.
But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
This series, this series! I picked up the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale a few years back on sale but just didn’t get around to reading it. I’m not sure how it got to the top of my Kindle TBR pile, but I’m so glad it did!
If you like Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver, or her Temeraire series, I think you’ll love Winternight. Katherine Arden’s trilogy weaves Russian Folklore, Medieval History, and religious tradition into an epic saga of faith, chaos and death, and coexistence between Christianity and more ancient traditions.
I am not a fan of books that set up Christianity as an irredeemable evil–and this one didn’t. There is one man of faith who is an antagonist, but there are also men of faith who are heroes (in other words, like real life), and there are beings of the ancient traditions who are antagonists and heroes, too.
The background of the story is the days leading up to Russia’s battle with the Tatars that in many ways solidified Russia’s disparate provinces into a united country.
I highly recommend it. Although the ebooks are pricey (you can’t resell ebooks to recover some of your costs–in essence you are only leasing them for as much as you pay for them) the books themselves are widely available at libraries, and through Amazon second hand.