Spoiler alert: The Bear and the Nightingale was one of the best new books I read in 2017, period, let alone best new fantasy. Written by Katherine Arden, Nightingale takes place in a fantastical medieval Russia, where house demons are real and frost kings rule the land. Our protagonist, Vasilisa “Vasya” Petrovna, is a young girl who has the ability to see these demons around her, and so she befriends them, knowing that they are benevolent creatures who help keep the house and farm running smoothly. She also meets Morozko, the winter king of legend and childhood fairytale, and… well, if you want their whole backstory, you should absolutely read Nightingale, hint hint.
The Girl in the Tower is the next installment of Vasya’s adventures as she rides across the frozen Russian wilderness on her trusted horse, Solovey. On the way she reunites with her older brother Sasha, who is now a monk – albeit a bit of a warrior monk. Sasha has been helping the Grand Prince of Moscow — their cousin, Dmitrii — track down a group of bandits that have been burning and destroying villages and stealing the girl children away into the night, all without leaving a trace of them behind. Vasya, determined to save these children and catch the bandits, joins Sasha and Dmitrii’s men in an effort to help out – all while disguised as a boy. The result? A white-knuckle adventure full of magic and danger.