I absolutely adored this book. Before I realised I had just under 100 pages left and I felt so sad. I fell in love with the world and the story. I'd read thinking five minutes had passed but I'd read thirty pages and somewhere had lost time.
This novel is heavily influenced by Russian folklore, a topic I know very little about, but now want to know all the things. From the little I do know I believe this novel is a spin on the story of Vasilisa the Brave. A young maiden that didn't conform to the stereotypical marry or join a convent attitude in medieval Russia. In this novel Vasya is able to see some of the benign demons within her town, something very few can see. They are closely related to the old Gods who are steadily being ousted by the vehement Christians. The only other person to see these demons is Vasya's cruel and somewhat mad step-mother.
My god I hated that woman. Anna has every reason to be sad and scared, yet she chooses to take out her frustrations on Vasya, the only person who may have perhaps been able to assist her in understanding that the demons meant no harm. In this book Arden did a fantastic job of making you hate certain characters and adoring others.
Speaking of adoring characters. Vasya. She is the type of character I love to read. She is unapologetically her despite the fact that it causes fear and distrust. She doesn't conform and is fine with that. I appreciate that she was described in a way that didn't make her the typical stunning heroine. She was by no means a beauty but it was her presence and persona that drew the eye. Her growth throughout the novel was fantastic to see. I can't wait to see how she develops in the next novel.
Finally, the plot. So cleverly constructed. It wasn't an action packed book but still managed to move with considerable pace and have you on the edge of your seat. I'm addicted to this series.
A big thank-you to Ali. I'm so glad you pushed me to read this.