A charming heady story of a young women in defiance of tradition. Every moment is beautifully written, with fascinating characters and deftly poised Russian folk tale. I loved every minute, and would absolutely recommend. The glossary (of sorts) of Russian names and spirits is very interesting.
In this sequel to ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’, Vasya is now a young woman. Orphaned, and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya has few options. She can choose between life in a convent or she can allow her older sister Olga to arrange a marriage with a Moscovite prince. Neither option appeals. Either option would confine Vasya and prevent her from exploring the world. Instead Vasya chooses to flee her home. She chooses to disguise herself as a boy and rides her horse into the woods.
‘If you speak to anyone, say you are a boy. The world is not kind to girls alone .’
A battle with some bandits earns Vasya the admiration of Dmitrii, the Grand Prince of Moscow. But she has to be careful to stay in his good graces, and she can only do this by pretending to be male.
‘Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet .’
What will happen next?
If you’ve read and enjoyed ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ then you won’t need much encouragement to read this instalment. I finished this book wanting the third book of the trilogy (‘The Winter of the Witch’) immediately. Even though I don’t want the story to end, I want to know how it ends. Vasya has developed as a character: can she survive the many dangers in 14th century Russia?
“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you”, she said at least fiercely. “But my life is not your game .”
I loved this novel with its often-bleak setting, its mixture of history and fantasy. There’s danger in both the physical world and the world of spirits. Highly recommended.