Hannah's Reviews > The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
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it was amazing
bookshelves: arc, fantasy, loved-it

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 have loads of unfinished books already but I was immediately drawn in and did not feel like reading anything else. I absolutely devoured it and when I came up again I was a bit sad that the book wasn't longer (especially because the last 3% were the glossary so the book ended a good 15 pages before I thought it would!). That so rarely happens with me!

The book tells the story of Vasya, a child whose mother was a bit other-worldly and who died giving birth to her. Vasya is different herself, being able to converse with household-spirits that nobody else can see. In true fairy tale fashion, her father remarries and the stepmother is, well not exactly evil, but one of the main antagonistic forces of this story. In a world where the new Christian beliefs are at odds with the older, heathen beliefs, this conflict comes to a head when a new priest is appointed to their little village and sets into motion a series of events that will have the heroine come face to face with arcane powers.

Set in the North of Russia with its seemingly ever-lasting winter, the author creates an atmosphere so believable, and enchanting, and surreal, and creepy, and beautiful, I could picture it every step of the way. Her characters are equally believable and even though they all fit the tropes of the genre, Katherine Arden adds little twists that make this story incredibly original and readable. One of my favourite of her decisions was the complete lack of romantic interest the heroine shows. She just wants to decide her life for herself; a difficult thing to do in a time when the two options open for her are a) marriage or b) joining a convent.

Overall, in case anyone missed it, I absolutely adored this book and its main character. I love the little nods to fairy tales I grew up with and I love the focus on making your own choices rather than just doing what is expected and/ or easy. The only slight negative I can find is that I found the ending to be rushed; but then again I just didn't want the book to end, ever.

I received this book curtesy of NetGalley and Random House, Ebury Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!
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Reading Progress

July 6, 2016 – Shelved
July 6, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
October 31, 2016 – Shelved as: arc
November 15, 2016 – Started Reading
November 17, 2016 –
November 17, 2016 – Shelved as: loved-it
November 17, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 18, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)

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message 1: by Julie (new)

Julie Your review makes this sound positively enchanting, Hannah. It goes on the TBR list immediately!

Lata Lovely review, Hannah. I'm definitely checking this book out.

Philip I agree with Julie and Lata, you've convinced me to add this to my TBR pile. And the cover looks great as well.

Hannah Thanks, you guys! I think it is a book well worth checking out!

Cheri Wonderful review, Hannah! Convinced!

Hannah Cheri wrote: "Wonderful review, Hannah! Convinced!" Thanks, Cheri! I really think you'd enjoy this book!

Andrea Wait, are you saying there is a girl named Vasya in this book?

Hannah Andrea wrote: "Wait, are you saying there is a girl named Vasya in this book?" Yes, there is and she is pretty brilliant!

Andrea That makes me kind of disappointed. Vasya is an affectionate form of Vasily, which is always a man's name. There are no girls named Vasya in Russia. Given the fact that the author allegedly did a lot of research into folklore, but completely skimmed over other cultural aspects, it is very disappointing thing to see. I hope Arden handled a foreign culture with more sensitivity than someone like Leigh Bardugo :(

Hannah That's a shame! For what it's worth, as far as I can tell (to be fair, I've only read the classics of Russian literature and Lukyanenko and Pelewin), it is a lot more authentic than Bardugo.

Andrea I did some digging, and apparently the main heroine is named Vasilisa? It's quite a nice nod to original fairytales, but I still can't figure out why the author chose Vasya as a short for Vasilisa - I've never seen it done that way. At least my first knee jerk reaction isn't going to dampen my enthusiasm for this book. Your review is wonderful and makes me impatient for the release date.

message 12: by Lata (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lata I have heard that Bardugo veered somewhat from Russian folk tales, so I'm interested in this story.

Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin Wonderful review, Hannah :-) I love that fuzzy feeling from books!

Cheri Terrific review, Hannah, so many things you said that I wished I'd thought to include. Loved Vasya!

Hannah Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ wrote: "Wonderful review, Hannah :-) I love that fuzzy feeling from books!" Thanks, Melissa, it is a great book and one I am sure you would enjoy!

Hannah Cheri wrote: "Terrific review, Hannah, so many things you said that I wished I'd thought to include. Loved Vasya!" Thank you so much, Cheri. I just absolutely adored this book from start to finish!

message 17: by Carol (new)

Carol Beautiful review, Hannah.

Hannah Carol wrote: "Beautiful review, Hannah." Thank you so much, Carol!

message 19: by Bil (new) - added it

Bil This sounds like a very magical read.

Renata Loved your review so much I requested the book at the library. It arrived yesterday and I'm eager to jump into this magical world!

Hannah Renata wrote: "Loved your review so much I requested the book at the library. It arrived yesterday and I'm eager to jump into this magical world!" Thank you so much, Renata! I really hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

message 22: by Christine (new)

Christine Enchanting review, Hannah. Just beautiful.

Hannah Thank you so much, Christine!

Candi Excellent review, Hannah! I am planning to read this book this summer, so I am very happy to read your very enticing review :)

Hannah Thanks so much, Candi! It is an absolutely wonderful book and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did. I am looking forward to your thoughts!

message 26: by Zoe (new)

Zoe Mann Excellent review Hannah. So glad you found a book that you loved so much x

Hannah Thank you, Zoe!

Katie Great review! I think you really captured it.

Hannah Thanks so much, Katie!

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