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The Bear and the Nightingale

(The Winternight Trilogy #1)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  169,292 ratings  ·  23,315 reviews
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 ni ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 319 pages
Published January 10th 2017 by Del Rey Books
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Katherine Arden So, Morozko is the name of the Russian Jack Frost, a winter demon who is sometimes benevolent and sometimes cruel. He features in multiple fairy tales…moreSo, Morozko is the name of the Russian Jack Frost, a winter demon who is sometimes benevolent and sometimes cruel. He features in multiple fairy tales. What I found interesting about this character though is he has his mythical roots in slavic paganism, as a dark god of winter and death called Chernobog. He evolved over the years from a pretty powerful deity to sort of a wicked fairy-tale creature, and finally (after some European influence) to Ded Moroz, the Russian Father Christmas. I found this journey (from wicked pagan god to giver of treats to children) absolutely fascinating, and I wondered what would go through such a character's mind as he was making that transition over the centuries. Anyway. Um, do Russians know of their pagan past? I certainly can't speak for the country as a whole. I know there are historians and casual enthusiasts who know a great deal about it, and there are definitely practicing pagans in Russia today. I would venture to say that the average Russian knows more fairy tales and fairy tale characters than they do Slavic deities and practices. If that helps :)(less)
Katherine Arden Hi Anne, Love that question. The Bear and the Nightingale is the first of three. The second one is being edited now; it is pretty much done. And yes! …moreHi Anne, Love that question. The Bear and the Nightingale is the first of three. The second one is being edited now; it is pretty much done. And yes! The three main characters in Book 2 are Vasya, her brother Sasha and her sister Olga. You will have lots of book 2 Sasha for sure. Thanks for reaching out. I'm so glad you enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale! (less)

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Start your review of The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy, #1)

“Tell the story of Frost, Dunyashka. Tell us of the frost-demon, the winter-king Karachun.”

This book is magical. This book is whimsical. This book is one of the best things I’ve read in my entire life. I loved this with every bone, every red blood cell, every molecule in my body. This book was nothing short of perfection, and I’m sorry to gush, but I never expected this story to captivate me the way it did.

“In Russian, Frost was called Morozko, the demon of winter. But long
chai ♡
A large pleasure in re-reading a favorite book is to experience that sense of almost-newness: to recognize and relive everything again exactly as it was, page by page, and yet to submit, completely and wholeheartedly, to the promise of discovery.

I read The Bear and the Nightingale for the first time in 2018. I finished the whole trilogy in 2019. It was bittersweet; for a year, I had filled my life with this world, these characters, and it was like breathing. When I said goodbye, I was not so mu
Emily May
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, historical, fantasy, 2016
A beautiful, pastoral fairy tale set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia.

Narrated in lyrical prose and third-person past tense, Arden weaves a tale no less compelling for its slow, gradual development. Like all the best fairy tales, the author draws on the setting - a village in the northern woods of Rus' - to create an atmosphere that promises magic and suggests many horrors.

Atmosphere is the key word here: The Bear and the Nightingale captures that feeling of uncertainty and superstition
Nilufer Ozmekik
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! This sound is not coming from the construction workers or the firefighters’ axes who are trying to enter my kitchen that I put on fire with my last cooking attempt. I literally hit my head against the wall several times. BECAUSE I SHOULD HAVE READ THIS BOOK BEFORE! WTH I waited tooooooooo lonnngggg!!! I already call my SLAP CLUB (the place I founded to punish the dislikable, detesting characters of the books) to teach me a lesson to choice my books wisely!

Katherine Arden
Miranda Reads
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-decade
Haunting. Riveting. Entrancing.

This is the sort of book that sweeps you on a journey .
"I want to save you, Vasilisa Petrovna," he said. "I will save you all. There are dark forces that you do not understand."

To his surprise, and perhaps to her, she laughed.
Vasilisa "Vasya" Petrovna lives during the "old Russia" - back when fairy and folk tales were not legends.

Vasya always possessed the second sight, which made for some interesting conversations with the various creatures livin
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To see this review and Q&A with the author, please visit

Words cannot describe how much I cherish this book. The characters were described so well and the story was absolutely fantastic and so magical. ♡♡♡

Certain parts of the story felt so nostalgic to me. It reminded me of my upbringing with my Russian grandmother and our old Orthodox Church. Matyushka, Batyushka and many of the other words in the story evoked a glimpse into my past. There wasn’t anything I didn’t lo
Elle (ellexamines)
“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

So this was... unexpectedly amazing. Somehow, I went into t
Robin Hobb
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished reading an ARC of this forthcoming book. You will have to wait until 201 to get your hands on it.

First, a metaphor. Have you ever been about to eat something, thinking it's flavored with vanilla and cinnamon? Then you bite into it and discover ginger and nutmeg (also favorites of mine.)

This book is a bit like that. It's fantasy. Okay, I've read lots of that. It's told rather like a fairy tale. Okay, ready for that.

It's told a bit like a Russian fairy tale only the setting is very
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
enchanting is really the only way to describe this book. this was the type of story that makes you want to go back to being a child who unconditionally believed in magic and wishes and the possibility of all things.

some might say this story was too slow, but i prefer to think of it as being patient. others might complain that there was no plot, but i saw it as being humble. and some could claim the writing was stiff, but i felt the language embodied the frigidity of long russian winters. everyt
Jan 21, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this debut. The Bear and the Nightingale is an atmospheric read with a likable main character.

Similar to Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, one of the reasons I wanted to read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is because I want to imagine how it feels to live in the wintery season. Actually, on that note, if you love Spinning Silver, I think you should give this novel a try as well; there are a lot of similarities between the two books, though I liked Spinning Silver
Elena May
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing.

That was amazing.

Saving the world is always hard. It can be a challenge even when you have loyal friends and numerous supporters on your side. Then imagine how much harder it is when your own family is actively sabotaging your attempts to help. When your entire community casts you out and punishes you for doing the right thing. When they not only make your work harder, but give you scorn instead of gratitude.

Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, netgalley
This is an atmospheric and intoxicating read that draws on history and Russian fairytales. Set in medieval times, it charts the origins of Vasya's birth and her mother's determination to have a daughter endowed with her grandmother's powers despite it meaning her death in childbirth. The novel begins with Dunya telling the story of Frost, a harbinger for what comes later.

Vasya is an enchanting rough and tumble girl, more at home in the wild outdoors and who chafes at the limitations pressed upo
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Very unpopular opinion time because it seems everyone in the world loves this book :-/

I liked certain things about the book but overall it wasn't for me. Don't know if it was the book or my mood but I'm glad there are so many people loving it.

I liked the characters enough and the storyline for the most part but I don't know. Sigh ...
Hmm... I'm at a loss with this one. I can't say that I loved it, but I didn't dislike it either. I feel like I'm missing something. This is a story that I should probably go back and re-read at a time when I can give it my full attention...but I didn't feel a strong enough connection the first time around to make me want to do that.

When I listen to an audiobook, I'm usually doing something else that requires part of my attention (i.e. driving). For this reason, I try to keep my audiobook select
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Magical is the word that best describes this unusual tale, in every sense. I have to say that I've not read anything quite like this one, but believe me, that IS meant as a compliment.

It transports the reader back to medieval Russia, to a place thick with forests and deep crisp glistening snow. It is here that we find Vasya, and her family. Vasya is a child of nature, a wild and wilful girl. She has powers that leave the villagers questioning the nature of those powers, many believing that she's
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best fantasy AND debut goodreads author! what will happen?

this is a stunning debut that perfectly mimics the tone of a classic fairytale, but breathes new and exciting life into the familiar themes with lyrical writing, strong characters, and by weaving in elements of russian folklore, which were mostly unfamiliar to me, and therefore fresh and exotic.

quickplot first, then i will return to these three strengths in greater detail.

pyotr vladimirovich
✨ A ✨
“Fairy tales are sweet on winter nights, nothing more.”

Every moment I spent reading The Bear and the Nightingale was an absolute pleasure. It was magical, atmospheric and very slow paced - so prepare yourself for that if you're going to be picking this up.

The writing was enchanting and I felt transported through words into this story.

Though this book is mainly about Vasya there are many chapters in POV of other characters and we get to know them as well. Arden gave us complex characters wh
This is lovely...but not much happens.
I kept hearing how this was so amazing and whatnot, but it was (looking back on it) slightly boring and could have been seriously condensed. By a lot of pages.
BUT. <--that's just me.
I don't dig lyrical shit all that much.
Anyway, this was set in Russia, which got my attention right away. Very cool.
So the (super-condensed) gist is that this girl, Vasya, is a bit magical and she does some helpful magical stuff to save all the ungrateful peasants.


Only it takes
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
4.5 stars! Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In the northern lands of medieval Rus’, a daughter is born to Pyotr Vladimirovich, a boyar, lord over many lands, and his wife Marina, who dies in childbirth. But Marina, daughter of the Grand Prince of Moscow and a mysterious, swan-like beggar girl, has bequeathed her daughter Vasilisa a mystical heritage.

Vasilisa the Brave (or Beautiful)

Vasilisa, or Vasya, grows up to be a spirited and rather rebellious young girl who, like an untamed colt
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-reads
Such an enchanting story. Vasya is who I aspire to be.
Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

3.5 stars

I added another new bookshelf to Goodreads: religious nutters

I preface my review with that statement, b/c it's important that you know exactly how off-putting I find anyone who uses religion as a crutch to excuse their abominable behavior.

Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter to ensure favorable winds as he sails to Troy? Kill him on his own alter. Spanish Inquisitioners torturing anyone not Catholic for the glory of God? Burn them at the stake. The KKK claiming th
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
An eerie, whimsical winter fairytale.
❝ There was a time, not long ago
When flowers grew all year
When days were long
And nights star-strewn
And men lived free from fear ❞

Once upon a time, on the fringes of Russian wilderness, in a land of harsh winters wavering between superstition and the observance of the old spirits and demons and Christianity, a peculiar girl was born. She was untamed, fey, a cacophony. She could see and converse with sprites, she talked to horses, spent her days in the fore
Maryam Rz.
5 STARS! Thank you, the thousand people who nagged at me to read this.

Soberly magical; solidly whimsical; silently wild; grimly light...The Bear and the Nightingale is all of this and none of this and more. Forgive me while I go weep in my bed of snow and dream of little demons and bird-horses and winter-kings 🥺

Review to come when I'm done with the series—meanwhile, do check out the playlist (Spotify LINK) filled with magical, spooky music and Russian folk songs to get the mood.

• • • • • •

Sep 18, 2018 marked it as to-read
This looks like a perfect winter read. I will save it for Christmas.
Christina - Recipe & a Read
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5, just take them all Arden stars!!!

Full review along with a recipe for Zharkoye (traditional Russian beef stew) featured on my blog Recipe & a Read!

So, first things first in this review: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was magical and whimsical and absolutely not what I was expecting at all. I’ve seen all the hype around this book / series, I’ve seen the fantastic reviews but for some reason I just kept glazing it over for other books. This, was a huge mistake and I wish I would’ve read it sooner because
Elyse Walters
Katherine Arden's lush and lovely debut novel deftly transports us to Russia in the 14th century with incredible lyricism- scents-sounds-vivid beauty-subtle intrigue- and gorgeous Russian folklore.

At the start Marina is frail and weak. She has 4 children and is pregnant with her 5th. Pyotr, her husband, and Dunya, her devoted nurse, both beg Marina not to keep the baby. They are fearful she will die. Marina had given Pyotr 3 sons and 1 daughter....but she was still hoping-
chan ☆
Nov 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fantasy, 2021
i was excited about this one in the beginning because it was exactly as described to me by friends, a delightful fairytalesque story.

and then the historical aspect came in. and we've got the whole christian v. pagan thing. and old timey "i hate this man" marriages. blehhhh. wish this had just been a fairytale.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved-it, fantasy, arc
Do you know that fuzzy feeling when you find a book with a world so immersive that you don't want it to ever end? This was a book like that for me. I absolutely adored it - and I am not quite sure if this review will at all be coherent, but I'll try my best.

This was a book that I was super super excited to get to read early. I love books set in Russia, especially the North of Russia; I love Fairy Tales; I love the books the blurb compared it to. I only wanted to read the first chapter because I
Set in a Fantasy-esque Medieval Russia with Russian folklore, this was supposed to be my jam. It should have been.
It started out well and somewhere down the line, in the last third part of the book particularly, I... simply lost interest.
Oh, well.
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Am I a child? Always someone else must decide for me. But this I will decide for myself."

Reread Thoughts: Yes, I am a fool. A hack. Witless. Brainless for the words I wrote two years ago. But I did enjoy this even more the second time around! On to the next!

Also, for the record, I’m surprised to see this series shelved as “Young Adult” because it doesn’t really read that way at all.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully atmospheric story with a definite origin in the Slavic folktales. Fr
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A note to everyone who trips and falls upon my Goodreads page. First, welcome. Let us read and discuss all the books together. I review books I've read, everything gets five stars, if I didn't like it I don't put it up.

Second, Goodreads is wondrous, but contacting me through my Goodreads DMs is a good way to ensure a long wait for a reply. Your best bet is Twitter or Instagram (arden_katherine) on

Other books in the series

The Winternight Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy, #2)
  • The Winter of the Witch (The Winternight Trilogy, #3)

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Here’s a challenge: Before you scroll down, make a mental list of what you think are the biggest books of the past decade, in terms of...
88 likes · 73 comments
“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me. Please. Please let me help you.” 422 likes
“Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.” 214 likes
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