Monday, July 17, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale (The Bear & the Nightingale #1) by Katherine Arden

Publication: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Source: Publisher/ Purchased my own copy also

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 loved how the book began with the story of Morozko (The Lord of Winter) being told to the children in their home. I felt like it set the tone for the rest of the book.

Six years after the death of her mother, Vasilisa’s (Vasya) father brings home a new wife (Anna). Anna is very devout and strict. Her personality clashes greatly with Vasya, who is a bit of a rebel. At least for her time period. She doesn’t like to follow a lot of rules/orders. She gives food and talks to the spirits/creatures that live in the forest and in her home. Much to the dismay of her stepmother.

All of that comes to an end when Father Konstantin, a priest comes to their village. He forbids the worshiping of the spirits. Soon after that, the crops aren’t coming in as plentiful, the food sources start dwindling. But Father Konstantin just urges everyone to pray harder and be strong in their faith.

Vasya knows it is because the spirits/creatures are being neglected. And she even attempts to secretly appease them by herself. But it is not enough. And pretty soon an evil creature threatens to awaken and harm everyone.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully imaginative and atmospheric tale that I enjoyed from start to finish. Gorgeous cover? Check. Historical Fiction? Check. Story involving a strong heroine and inspired by Russian folklore? Double check.

There is so much I could say about this book. I feel like my review doesn’t really do it justice. So I am going to tell you to check it out for yourself. The book started off a little slow, but it had a really interesting start and I fell in love with the writing style. The descriptions were vivid, the characters were complex and interesting. Each character added another layer to the story. I loved Vasya. She was a very strong character. It was interesting to see that in an “old tale” there was a “modern” girl. So far ahead of her time I thought. I was even more excited to discover that I would get to find out more about her when book 2 releases, The Girl in the Tower on December 5, 2017!

RATING: 5 out of 5


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