I don't pre-order a lot of books but for The Girl in the Tower, I was prepared to make an exception - I'd first read (and very much enjoyed) the previous book in the trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale, last November and was keen to see if the author could manage to follow up such a great debut. I'm pleased to say that this book is, in my opinion, as good as its predecessor and it sets up the final volume of the series well. Fortunately that's due out in January next year and I hope the publishers keep to that timetable, as I'm keen to see how everything works out!
The Girl in the Tower follows pretty much immediately on from the events in the previous book, with Vasya taking her horse and heading off to travel the world after the untimely death of her father. The priest Konstantin, who has to carry a significant amount of blame for helping set in motion matters in relation to Vasya, has gone back to Moscow telling tales of witches. Vasya's older sister is there, a virtual prisoner as she awaits the birth of her third child in the claustrophobic terem, and Olga is horrified to hear what has happened in her much-missed home.
Just as their brother Sasha is advocating for military action to protect the local villagers from bandits who are torching their homes and stealing some of their girl children, Vasya turns up with three of those children in tow. She has, of course, rescued them from the bandits and, dressed as a boy, puts Sasha in the position of having to lie to protect her reputation - after all, what virtuous woman would wear breeches and ride about the countryside unchaperoned?
Eventually, however, everything unravels and the truth comes out. Not just the truth about Vasya being a girl but also what connects her to the Winter King and also some tantalising hints about Vasya's own heritage, as the main antagonist in The Girl in the Tower proves to have a link to Vasya's mother. Once again, it's a richly-described world inhabited by the creatures of Russian mythology and, for me at least, a real page-turner. It's going to be very interesting to see how the final book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, turns out and I'm hoping for a positive ending for more than one character I've come to know along the way...