Publishers Weekly Review
Arden's satisfying conclusion to her fantasy trilogy set in medieval Russia finds 17-year-old Vasilisa "Vasya" Petrovna in the ruins of Moscow. She released a firebird in order to save the life of the Grand Prince of Moscow and inadvertently set the city on fire. An angry mob descends and slaughters someone very close to her, and the devastated Vasya ends up in the clutches of an old foe, the mad priest Konstantin Nikonovich, who plans to burn Vasya as a witch. An offer from the demon Medved, whom Vasya knows as the Bear, promises salvation, but Vasya is no one's pawn. Once she escapes Konstantin, she must journey into the dreamlike Midnight country and beyond, where she encounters her great-grandmother Baba Yaga, gains allies old and new, and comes to terms with her own powers. Her realizations come just in time, because the Bear will use Konstantin and the dead to sow further chaos and destruction, and war is on the horizon. How far will Vasya go to save her beloved 'Rus and the people she loves? Arden's gorgeous prose entwines political intrigue and feminist themes with magic and folklore to tell a tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Vasya's powerful connection to magic is no longer a secret in Moscow, and with zealous father Konstantin behind a simmering, city-wide paranoia about witches and demons, she is no longer safe among the world of men. While she escapes to the world of Midnight and explores her deep connection to folk spirits, Moscow faces danger in the form of Mongol hordes, and Vasya cleverly manages to call on both parts of herself to rescue the Russian people from peril. Arden nicely ties up the story in this trilogy ender (which started with The Bear and the Nightingale, 2017), focusing primarily on Vasya's warring impulses: she is captivatingly caught between the intoxicating power of magic and the groundedness of love and family. Though the pace lags a bit toward the beginning, once Vasya finds her footing, Arden's signature cinematic pacing and clearly choreographed action come to the fore. Visceral descriptions of battle, an atmospheric sense of place, and some truly heartbreaking moments of loss make this a gut-wrenching read, but there's ample hope and satisfaction to be found as Vasya chooses her own unique path to triumph.--Sarah Hunter Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Review
A satisfying conclusion to a trilogy set in medieval times in the area on the verge of becoming Russia.In a luxuriously detailed yet briskly suspenseful follow-up to The Bear and the Nightingale (2017) and The Girl in the Tower (2018), Arden's historically based fantasy follows heroic Vasyaa young woman with a strong connection to the spirits of the place where she livesas she attempts to save her family and her country from evil forces. Because the novel starts with a bang where the preceding volume left off, with Moscow nearly burned to a crisp by a Firebird imperfectly controlled by Vasya, readers are advised to backtrack to the two earlier books rather than attempt to sort out all the characters and backstory on the fly. Among the humans are Vasya's sister, Olga, compromised by her desire for wealth and position; her brother, Sasha, a monk with a taste for the military life; Grand Prince Dmitrii; and corrupt priest Konstantin. Among the inhuman are the warring brothers Morozko, the winter-king with whom Vasya conducts a conflicted romance, and Medved, a demon addicted to chaos. Arden keeps the narrative fresh by sending Vasya questing into fantastic realms, each with its own demanding set of rules and its own alluring or forbidding geography, and by introducing new "chyerti," demons or spirits, including an officious little mushroom spirit who indiscriminately plies Vasya with fungi, some edible and some distinctly not. Fans of Russian mythology will be pleased to find that Baba Yaga puts in a cameo appearance to straighten out some of the complicated genealogy. The trilogy leads up to the Battle of Kulikovo, which many consider the beginning of a united Russia. Arden neatly establishes parallels between Vasya's internal struggles, between attachment and freedom or the human world and the spiritual one, for example, and those taking place in the world around her.A striking literary fantasy informed by Arden's deep knowledge of and affection for this time and place. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.