Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel by Katherine Arden

  • ISBN-10: 1101885939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101885932
  • Publisher: Del Rey (January 10, 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 fell in love with the cover of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden the minute I saw it.  I felt drawn into the beautiful artistry and colors, the homey house lit by firelight and the open door asking me to enter and find out what this magical tale was all about.  I became even more intrigued as I read this book's synopsis. I came away eager to explore the pages of this adaptation of a new-to-me Russian fairy tale. 

While it started out a bit slow for my taste,  I soon found myself lost in the richness of this tale, the gorgeous descriptions and it's engaging characters. As so often with fairy tales, the story's basis is fantasy but within that frame work are deep glimpses of Russian history, human nature, religion and so much more!       

The Bear and the Nightingale is truly a beautifully written story and I am in awe that this is Ms. Arden's debut novel. I am very much looking forward to reading more of her work.        

5 Stars

I received this book for free. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own. Thank you to Del Rey Publishing, Ms. Arden and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

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