The Bear And The Nightingale: Book Review by Dinh.
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.
I have been really looking forward to reading The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden as I heard so many wonderful things about the book.
I am so glad that I picked up this fantasy novel to read. Right of the bat, it got me interested with its compelling story telling style.
The book has so many qualities that I like. It was enough just to read for its enchantment!
Here’s what I liked about the book:
I loved how this book was beautifully written.
It’s a very descriptive book evoking a fairy tale like imagery. It deftly transported me to medieval Russia.
Arden’s writing style was perfect for this kind of novel.
The use of some Russian words really helped it create an authentic Russian feel about the book. There’s a glossary at the end of the book for easy reference too.
Magical Story Line
I love the setting in Arden’s debut novel.
Set in medieval Russia, young Vasilia,or Vasya, has to save her family from the one eye demon who has escaped his bonds. Weaved into this story line is how Vasaya came to be, and the importance of her birth.
This is a magical folk tale for adults and Arden uses Russian folklore and history in a creative manner that gets you immerse in its story.
What is so wonderful about the book is the dichotomy between good and evil. Set in a time during the transition between Old beliefs (spirits) and Christianity, those that hold onto the Old beliefs are seen as evil and the new faith as good.
The battle ground of faith where the old gods are forsaken and new Christian god taking over is not new, but what is great about the story line is that it has a strong female heroine who is the beacon of salvation.
The strength of this book is its characters.
I really enjoyed that the main protagonist is a strong female heroine, particularly set in a era when they are not valued for their worth.
Vasya is an awesome character. You can not but like her because she is wild, strong and smart and she has determination to do what she wants to in a time when women didn’t have much say.
I liked how all the characters were also well developed.
I particularly liked how well Arden portrayed Anna, Vasya’s stepmother. She too, has the ability to see the spirits and the only place she gets relief and not see them is in the church.
Another character that was complex and done well was the priest Konstantin Nikonovich.
From the main characters to the side characters, Arden does a great job of bringing them alive and making them real. Even Vasya’s nurse Dunya is an interesting and fleshed out character.
I would say that the ending was the best part of the book. After a long developed plot, the action happens at the end. Though I knew it was coming, it was nice to see it play out.
The story comes together at the end and is an ending worthy of reading. It’s a perfect set up for the sequel.
There are some questions, and loose ties that are not answered which makes you wonder if the sequel will answer it.
I am looking forward in finding out about the special necklace that Vasya was given and how that plays into the story. Also, I would like to know why Vasya’s mother was special as well.
My Final Thoughts:
I enjoyed The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden for it’s magical spell-bounding written style and the how the novel is inspired by Russian fairy tales.
The strength of the book comes from the characters, which are richly described and will compel you to immerse in this fairy tale where the young heroine tries to save her village from the evil forces.
I enjoyed this magical journey and I will be looking out for Arden’s sequel, The Girl in the Tower, which is due to be released in December, 2017.