Review: The Winternight Trilogy

Hi and welcome to the reading world!

Today I’m going to be sharing a review of a series I picked up right at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 that became one of my favorites, The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden.

I’ll be predominantly focusing this review on the first book in the trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale. However, I will include a brief non-spoiler summary of my thoughts of The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch as well as my review of the trilogy as a whole.

Review: The Winternight TrilogyThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 28, 2019
Pages: 336

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain,intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay

The Bear and the Nightingale is a well known adult fantasy novel that is the start of the Winternight Trilogy. I picked this one up hoping for a wintery atmospheric tale and that is exactly what I got, alongside a slow build sweeping adventure and the start of an exciting trilogy.

The Bear and the Nightingale follows Vasya, a young woman who is fiercely independent and doesn’t fit the mold of what her family and her society expects for her. Vasya also has connections to a world that her family oftentimes lacks understanding of, and the conflict between this world and the changing social norms sets up a dramatic conflict.

I liked that Vasya isn’t portrayed as a perfectly strong or capable heroine. She’s young, she doesn’t know what exactly she wants but she still wants to be able to figure it out for herself. Vasya resents the fact that her gender is determining her life outcomes, and struggles with wanting to live life on her own terms. Her family are unique and memorable characters in their own rights, and the dynamics between them and Vasya help to show the dimensions of her character.

The supernatural elements of this novel are also well integrated into the themes of Vasya’s independence and the shifting world around her. This novel is definitely slower paced but has plenty of suspenseful and action filled moments as I read along. I think it balances character development, building tension, and having moments of action. It sets up some overarching themes and conflict for the entire trilogy well while still having a storyline unique to this introductory novel.

In terms of books 2 and 3 of the trilogy, I’ll avoid going into as much detail to prevent spoilers. I will say that of the series, the third book is my favorite. This series builds well on itself, and the two sequels are faster paced and increased in scale, complexity, and nuance. Much of the conflict in this book centers around tradition, religion, and change and oftentimes highlights the motivations and complexities characters on both sides of this conflict face. I really enjoyed how much depth there was to the story and characters as the series progressed and thought it complemented how the stakes similarly increased.

Overall, I really enjoyed this series. It does start off as a slower paced fantasy, but one that I enjoyed reading and made me want to carry on with the trilogy quickly. As you carry on, the series definitely picks up pace and expands in scale to include political intrigue, tension and nuance. It’s one I definitely will be rereading in the future and has characters I’m very fond of.

Try this one if you like: wintery and atmospheric novels, slow building stories with tension and moments of action, supernatural elements integrated into a historical setting, magical animal companions, expansive stories with nuance and depth

Have you read this one? What were your thoughts?

Thanks for stopping by!


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