In a dark medieval Russian forest, the tomboy daughter of the local chief, Vasya, just wants to continue with her wild and pagan ways- running through the woods, riding horses, communing with the minor domestic and farmyard gods. These ways put Vasya at odds with her stepmother as well as the Church, personified by the local priest. The stepmother and the priest push Vasya’s father to marry her off, which bodes ill for the village as a whole- the bonds that keep evil forces at bay are weakening and need Vasya, brave and bold, to keep the balance. Will Vasya be sent away? Is the mysterious presence whispering directions in the priest’s ear a manifestation of God or something more sinister? Will the village survive?
I can’t recommend this book enough- it felt like such an escape from the late winter confines of COVID life, and also reminded me of the romance of winter. Arden writes well and she has a background in Russian history which made her fairytale feel grounded, like a real story that has been passed down. Curl up and dive in!