Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale 
Series: Winternight Trilogy #1 
Author: Katherine Arden 
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Fairytale 
Publisher: Del Rey Books 
Publication Date: January 10, 2017 
Source: Purchased 

A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman's myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.
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. 
So, I'm just going to come out and say it right away: I am obsessed with this book. Thoroughly obsessed. I read it a few weeks ago and still can't get it out of my head. There was something about the tone, the setting, and the characters that captured me and I haven't been able to shake that magic since (not that I want to). If you're a fan of historical fantasy with fairytale elements, I would 100% recommend picking this book up. 

The first thing I want to rave talk about is the setting. Holy wow, did this author put in work. The world building is extraordinary. It takes place in the Russian wilderness many, many years ago. While I knew almost nothing about Russia during this time while reading, I fell seamlessly into this world; the author did a fantastic job of introducing readers to the legends, life, and language of these people. I came out of this excited to do my own research and learn more about the world Vasilisa and her family would have lived in. 

 Speaking of Vasilisa . . . I don't think I've ever read about a character who was as resilient and true to herself as Vasilisa. We follow her from the time she's born until she's a teenager and watching her grow and embrace who she is despite the adversity she faced was amazing and inspirational. She was strong and determined to protect those she loved, even when they didn't necessarily accept or embrace who she was. It was heartbreaking watching her fight for people who weren't willing to fight for her but that's who she is. 

While the story was slow at times, I was never bored or tempted to put the book down. These slower parts were used for world building and to develop the characters, which I enjoyed a lot. I'd say it wasn't until halfway through that the plot picked up quite a bit and we got to see more action. I know that slowness might bother some people, but I enjoyed reading both the fast-paced and slower parts. 

I can't end this review without talking about Morozko -- I love this guy so much. Seriously, so much. I need more of him in the next books. There's still a lot of mystery surrounding him and I'm excited to solve that mystery with Vasilisa. 

This is a series I'll definitely be continuing -- the second book is already out and the third book, The Winter of the Witch, releases in August. I know some people might be turned off of this book because of the slower pace, trust me -- it's entirely worth the read. You don't want to miss experiencing this world and these characters!

“If this is the last decision I can ever make, at least it is my decision. Let me go, Alyosha. I am not afraid.” 

5/5 Teapots

1 comment:

  1. I had never heard of this book before I heard a book tuber talk about it a while back and it sounded so interesting. The world building you describe sounds so amazing and it makes me so excited to read this book. Lovely review! :)


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