Review: The Bear and the Nightingale
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Ebury on 12th January 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.
I had been saving my ARC of this book to read over the festive period – a book filled with folklore, fairytales and a Russian forest setting, it just seemed like a good time to read it. Oh, it was! Tucked up in bed reading of demons and magic, a headstrong girl and a Russian winter – it was a fantastic combination!
However, Arden’s writing is so powerful and her scene setting and descriptions are so stunning that you could read this anywhere and be transported to a harsh Russian winter. Seriously, a poolside lounger in the Canaries and you’d still feel cold!
Arden weaves together a memorable family tale with Russian folklore to create a beautiful, consuming novel. Our protagonist Vasya makes for a fascinating character who years to follow her own path in life, not that prescribed by tradition and culture.
The Russian setting, culture and folklore had me fascinated from the outset. The incredible writing and interesting characters swept me along all the more. It’s dark in places, heart-wrenching in others, but it did also make me chuckle.
I actually don’t want to go into any more detail. You just need to experience this book. So, get your hands on a copy, curl up under a blanket with a cuppa and enjoy. It’s a beauty!