- “The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden
- Fantasy Historical Fiction
- Read as a physical copy thanks to the publishers providing a free review copy for an honest review.
- 4/5 stars
- Finished February 8, 2017
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Guys this book completely blew me away. Totally and completely. When I started this book I didn’t honestly expect much. I have always wanted to read more books based around Russia, but because I haven’t dove much into that interest, I find getting into these books difficult. I know that won’t happen the more books I read about it, but I was slightly hesitant as I started this.
This book exceeded all of my wildest dreams.
It took me a little bit to get into, but once I was in, I was in. I feel like I learned a lot from this book, about Russian culture and mythology, which is something I never knew existed. What I really loved about this book is that similarly to Harry Potter, I felt like the magic existed in conjunction with the real world. I could see this magic being real, and that it didn’t completely invalidate the world they lived in. It was obvious that this book was meant to take place in the past, but it still felt very real, like this could be incorporated into today’s world. With a magic so subtle and strong that you can’t help but want to know what happens next.
I’ve heard that there may be a sequel to this book and I’m intrigued because I’m not sure where it would go. This doesn’t mean I won’t read it, because on the contrary I absolutely will. I found the characterization in this book done extremely well, and I found myself invested in all the characters, including the ones that were supposed to be “bad”. What I liked so much about Arden’s writing is that even the bad character was one I found myself sympathizing with slightly. I didn’t find myself despising any character, and that’s really credited towards Arden’s beautiful writing. I’m so grateful to the publishing company for the chance to review this book.
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