By: Katherine Arden
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
While looking through some of the Debut Author books for this year to complete the challenge, this cover immediately stood out to me. I think that the cover looks so warm and cozy yet mysterious and therefore maybe a little nerve wracking. When I read the summary I was immediately intrigued. I have never read a book like this one before, so I knew this was going to be added to be one of the debut books I read for my challenge.
What I thought
This book is so beautifully written.
Vasya is a young child in old Russia with the gift of sight. She is able to see the spirits that guard her house and the woods and doesn’t really think anything of it. Her new step-mother also has the sight and is convinced that she is mad and is seeing demons. Since Vasya can also see these demons, the step-mother is convinced that Vasya is a demon as well. When a new priest comes to the town, he takes it upon himself to save the village from these “demons.” However, when the villagers stop sacrificing to the old spirits, things start going wrong.
Arden does such a great job at writing about old Russia. The world is so vivid and I really felt as though I was a part of it. Like old school Russian authors, the book is very heavily written, but not in a bad way. It just took me a while to get through because it’s not a book that is packed with action on every page, but every page is interesting.
I do think there were parts where the book moved a bit slowly and I wished that it had gotten more to the point, but every part of the book was written so well that it didn’t irritate me. I was a bit annoyed at the fact that two of Vasya’s siblings were a big part of the early book and then pretty much completely disappeared. I thought we would get more of them back as she grew up, but they were barely mentioned.
Interestingly enough, my brother and I had a conversation while I was reading this book (that didn’t come up because I was reading this book) about what if the reason the world is falling apart is because people stopped praying to the Greek Gods, for example. This book is the perfect look into that theory and because of that, I found it even more interesting.
By: Katherine Arden