The only four words in the whole wide world that can guarantee I will read a book – no other information needed, no questions asked.
The Haunted Coast by Michael Wray was the perfect November-Sunday read for me, curled up by the woodburner, snuggled inside a big woolly jumper, toasty warm but full of a horrible cold that just won’t go away and leave me alone to breathe like a normal human being. The book was forty-six pages of spooks and Yorkshire legends that whisked me away from my runny nose and aching sinuses into a world of ghosts and ghouls, mermaids and monsters, and a howling, churning, wild North Sea.
If you look too long into the green the green will eat you up. It will wind its way around your heart and its splintered roots will lodge inside your bones. Underneath your skull, a whole forest will unfurl and make your thoughts a muddle. You’ll try to leave it, try to live beyond it, but you’ll find your soul ensnared, find it calling you back, pulling you back, painting your blood and staining you through.
I don’t have enough words to describe my feelings for this book. I just have lots of long, drawn out, unintelligible, half-language/half-noise things that I can’t figure out how to spell, which is making writing a review tricky.
Basically, in conclusion (introduction?), I really really, truly truly loved it.
Why? Well, let me get out some trusty bullet points and give you a few reasons.*
The writing. Ah gosh. It’s magical. Captivating. Bewitching. [Insert all other synonyms here.] The descriptions are beautiful without being overbearing. Characters pop out of the page, right into your heart and brain.
The setting. The Girl in the Tower evolves brilliantly from the small town setting of The Bear and the Nightingale. Things are no longer exclusively lush and natural and wild – they’re also golden and glittering, bewilderingly human.
The relationships. They spark, falter, realign, flourish, and die – believably, joyously, and painfully. It’s an emotional roller-coaster of the best kind.
There are consequences. There were points when I worried that everything was all too easy and convenient, but the easiness was snatched away. It was perfectly timed and excruciatingly brutal.
Vasya. I’ve read criticism that Vasya is too headstrong, too stubborn, and too selfish. She is absolutely headstrong, absolutely stubborn, and sometimes she’s selfish. That’s the point of the story though, right? She’s growing. She’s learning to balance being resolute in her wants, beliefs, and dreams, and the world(s) she lives in. She’s learning how to navigate herself towards a life of freedom, without veering into selfishness and without harming others. She’s always gone with her heart and gut, now she’ll have to step up and factor in the cool, calm calculations of her mind too. She’s a great and flawed protagonist.
So as you might have guessed, I thoroughly and heartily (right from the bottom of it in fact) recommend this book. And if you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale please go read it now. Pretty please. Then read this one. If you like fairytales and wonder and magic, or even just snow and ice and winter, you’ll love the world Katherine Arden has created.
You’ll love it.
Really really, truly truly.
Right, now it’s back to the noises I can’t figure out how to spell.
*Disclosure: I am still completely and utterly book drunk at this point. Mixing bullet points and book drunkeness is not generally advisable.
The weather for the last week here has been beautiful – sunny and warm, the air filled with bumbling bees and dancing butterflies, the ground bubbling with bluebells. When it has rained, it’s been a gentle rain of blossom trickling to the earth.
And every chance I could snatch throughout the week I was outside in the garden clutching my copy of The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden, being transported to the wilds of northen Russia.
The story follows Vasya as she tries to keep her community safe from forces they themselves have awakened after they abandon the old folktales and instead rely on the fearmongering of an ambitious, beguiling priest.
The story brims with creatures and magic – it had me keeping an eye out for Domovoi in the kitchen just how The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe had me checking the back of my wardrobe (plus pretty much any cupboard in the house, just to be sure) for another world.
I absolutely loved it. It’s enchanting, beautifully written, and the creatures and characters – especially Vasya – come alive on the page.
I didn’t really want it to end, so I’m very happy to hear that it’s the first book of a series.
The Faerie Thorn by Jane Talbot is a collection of seven short stories inspired by folklore, fairytales and magick. They’re deliciously dark and gruesome – full of faeries, trolls, mermen and maids, shapeshifters, spells, dastardly deeds, bittersweet bargains, nightmarish consequences, and satisfying comeuppances.
I’ve found the stories both enchanting and unsettling. Their short length gives them an addictive energy that’s made a refreshing change – kind of apt at the beginning of springtime – after struggling my way through Dracula.
The style of writing is unlike anything I’ve read before – it has a lyrical, slightly poetic feel to it which I really enjoyed. In my head I felt like I was listening to the stories being told around a flickering fire, sat right forward, barely blinking, hanging on every word.
It’s definitely worth reading. And if you’re anything like me, you won’t want to put it down!