The second book of the Winternight Trilogy takes the story from the forests and small villages of mediaeval Russia (then known as The Rus’) to the large city of Moscow. Large for the time, but still a relatively small city behind walls to keep out enemies and ruled by Grand Prince Dmitrii. His wife is Olga, one of the family followed in the first book. Her brother Sasha is now a monk, but one that wears a sword and fights alongside his friend and cousin Dmitrii against raiders who are pillaging small villages in the area. Meanwhile, their sister Vasya, the one with arcane powers both innate and given to her by Morosko, the Frost King, is determined to see the world beyond her small village. She rides out on her magic talking horse, Solovey, and for a while they have adventures and narrow escapes from capture, and avoid starving and freezing with Morosko’s help. At length Vasya, disguised as a boy, joins forces with Dmitrii and her brother Sasha, helping to fight the barbarian raiders. When they all arrive back in Moscow, Vasya’s adventure becomes much more complicated and perilous, especially when her true identity is found out. Soon Vasya is surrounded by enemies: her old foe the priest Konstantin, a wily sorcerer and a Tatar warlord, while her family seems set against her. Worst of all, Morosko has little power to help her in Moscow.
This was a good read. At times I thought Vasya seemed fussy and spoiled, unable to make the wisest choices and putting those close to her in danger, but that works itself out as the story moves on to an epic conclusion. I will be reading the third book soon. Recommended.