The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
On Sale Date: January 10, 2017
Adult Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Fairytales & Folklore
Del Rey, 336 pages
Source: Publisher
My Rating: 5 Stars

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.

The Bear and the Nightingale brings the best out in storytelling, capturing the traditional essence of mixing a touch of myth, magic, and truth into an undeniably lush and captivating tale.

Russian folklore and fairy tale mingle in a highly atmospheric setting. One where Winter's landscape is so vivid you can feel the crunch of freshly fallen snow and hear the hearth’s flames crackle as the story unfolds. 

The Bear and the Nightingale is a languorous read, it takes its time unraveling, doling out yummy bits and pieces from various perspectives until a grander picture is revealed.

It begins simple enough, with a fairy tale told on a cold Winter's night. It is the story of the Winter King Morozko, also known as Frost. 

The beauty of this simple yet powerful tale is how Katherine Arden uses it as the stepping stone for The Bear and the Nightingale’s story. 

Vasilisa’s story, our heroine, begins with her birth and subsequent death of her mother. Unruly and untamed, Vasilisa grows up doted upon and well loved. Yet, at the back of her father's mind lingers the thought of taking a wife again in hopes of giving his daughter a mother figure to help tame her into a proper lady.

Thus, begins Vasilisa’s journey, a story of kindness and cruelty. Of magic and myth. A spirited heroine who battles enemies both seen and unseen. Set in a gorgeously rendered Wintery landscape, Katherine Arden fills the pages with danger and enchantment, and as Winter holds fast, Vasilisa will be challenged to save those she loves. Betrayal and help from unexpected characters make for an enticing read.

The Bear and the Nightingale is Katherine Arden’s debut novel but reads as if she has been penning these tales on paper for much longer. 

If you are an enthusiast of fairy tales, Russian history, and its folklore, then The Bear and the Nightingale is a must read! 

Katherine Arden is a new favorite author of mine and on my auto buying list. Her writing is 5-star quality, the kind you want hardbacks in proudly displaying on your shelves.