The Winter of the Witch

By Carys Bowen

Last summer I read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It was the first book in the Winternight Trilogy, so of course I read the second, The Girl in the Tower. However, I could not read the final book because — agonizingly — it didn’t come out until 2019. So, I did what any sensible library-card-holder might do: I put it, The Winter of the Witch, on hold. Then I forgot about it until January 24, 2019 when I came home from school to find the book sitting on my desk. My dad had picked it up from the library while I was away.

 I didn’t start reading it that night. I knew that if I did, I would probably get very little sleep. So, I waited until the next day, a Friday, when I could read to my heart’s content (or the end of the book, whichever came first). First, I looked up a summary of the first two books. It had been a long time since I had read them, and after a week of travel, a semester of school, two breaks, and one set of midterms, their plots had faded to just a shimmer of a memory, a tattered web of characters, and a glimpse of the world they lived in. Then I opened The Winter of the Witch. I had no idea why the first chapter was called “Marya Morevna,” but I did know the font that the title was in. That font brought back so much more of the previous plots than any summary could, and I was so overwhelmed that I had to shut the book for a moment before I plunged into this story about magic, war, and faith.

But plunge in I did! I read that night, I read off and on throughout Saturday, and then I made my mom confiscate the book on Sunday so I would actually get some homework done. It wasn’t until Wednesday, January 30 that I picked up The Winter of the Witch again. Chilled to the bone, I took it from my mom’s closet and, huddled in blankets, I read. I read as a respite from my studying, from our dinner guests, and from the chill (believe it or not, this worked, even though most of the book takes place in winter). Then, around nine that evening, I finished the book. It was a satisfying ending: hopeful, but not so hopeful as to make me want to read another book in the series. The last event in the story, the Battle of Kulikovo, actually took place and happened in 1380. This trilogy, written by Katherine Arden, starts in the imagination and ends fairly near a history textbook, but the journey in between is worthwhile: sad, happy, painful, freeing, scary, surprising, and above all, a real treat for my inner madwoman.