Melanie's Reviews > The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
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it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2017, fantasy, historical, favorites, cover-porn, demons, retellings, paranormal, magic
Recommended to Melanie by: Emily



“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 ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.”

I’m not even sure where to begin with this story, but I guess I will start by saying that this story is a love letter to stories everywhere. This book is a mash-up retelling of many Russian fairy tales, but with unique spins of them, which are woven together to tell such a beautiful tale that makes me breathless just thinking about how expertly it is crafted.

Vasilisa and her family live on the edge of the Russian wilderness. Vasilisa’s father rules these lands, and her mother died giving birth to her, knowing that she was special. Vasilisa was raised by her mother’s nursemaid, who is constantly telling her fairy tales that most Russians fear, but Vasilisa loves.

“You must remember the old stories. Make a stake of rowan-wood. Vasya, be wary. Be brave.”

Vasilisa soon realizes that she is indeed special, and that she can see creatures that most people cannot. And, again, instead of feeling fear, she feels compassion and befriends and takes care of all the different creatures that dwell on her lands.

And even though Vasilisa’s family accepts her, the rest of the community cannot see past how different she is. Vasilisa’s father tries many different things to get her to want the same things most girls in this time want (marriage, babies, performing “womanly” duties), while Vasilisa only wants to be free and see the world.

Meanwhile, there is a frost-demon that does everything to ensure him and Vasilisa’s paths cross. And Vasilisa couldn’t resist the urge to go to him even if she tried. Then a beautiful story unfolds about a girl, a nightingale, and a bear, who are destined to have a story told.

“Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale.”


Like I️ said, it’s now an all time favorite for me! I️ truly loved this story that much. It deserves all the praise, all the hype, and all the love.

This book had absolutely everything that I love in my fantasy:
✘ Feminist as all hell
✘ Magical forest
✘ All the morally grey characters
✘ Mythology and folklore
✘ Little fae folk saving the day
✘ Wintery setting

And when I say that this is the perfect winter read, I mean it with everything that I am. Never have I ever read a better seasonal read. Please give this a try in the upcoming months. I promise you, you won’t regret it

This book was nothing short of magical. From the lyrical prose, to the atmospheric town and forest, to the characters that constantly had me crying, to the message that girls can be anything they want to be, no matter what society tries to confine them to. This book is a tangible piece of heaven and I am so thankful that I was able to read this before the end of 2017, because it truly is a shining star in 2017 publications. I cannot wait to start my ARC of The Girl in the Tower tonight!

“I am only a story, Vasya.”

And this book is extra special to me, because this is the book that all the wonderful people at The Goodreads Power User Summit gave to me! Which makes it all the sweeter that it ended up being one of my favorite books of all time.


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Reading Progress

July 25, 2017 – Shelved
July 25, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
November 21, 2017 – Started Reading
November 21, 2017 – Shelved as: read-in-2017
November 21, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 21, 2017 – Shelved as: historical
November 22, 2017 –
page 118
36.53% "I know this is a little early to say, but I think this could be one of the best book I’ve read all year in my entire life. I am so in love with this. It’s honestly beautiful perfection in every single way."
November 27, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
November 27, 2017 – Shelved as: cover-porn
November 27, 2017 – Shelved as: demons
November 27, 2017 – Shelved as: retellings
November 27, 2017 – Shelved as: paranormal
November 27, 2017 – Shelved as: magic
November 27, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 81 (81 new)


message 1: by Alexis (new) - added it

Alexis  (TheSlothReader) Hey, Melanie, I'm going to need you to cool it with the good books because I'm on a book buying ban and I've added like 5 books to my buy list because of you


message 2: by Alexis (new) - added it

Alexis  (TheSlothReader) I'm obviously totally joking. I'm glad your reading good books. I've heard other stellar reviews on this one. I hope you keep having good reading experiences


Melanie Alexis wrote: "Hey, Melanie, I'm going to need you to cool it with the good books because I'm on a book buying ban and I've added like 5 books to my buy list because of you"

Alexis, you are too cute and I love making you add books to your TBR! But read this one, PLEASE! 💗xx


message 4: by Isabella (new) - added it

Isabella I agree with Alexis on this one; STOP with the amazing books we all want to read because I don't have enough money but omg i want them all??? :P


Melanie Isabella wrote: "I agree with Alexis on this one; STOP with the amazing books we all want to read because I don't have enough money but omg i want them all??? :P"

Hahaha! I'm so sorry! But oh my gosh, is that Wintersong in your profile picture, Isabella? BECAUSE IF SO, you really need to pick this one up, oh my word! You. Will. Love. This. 💗xx


message 6: by Isabella (new) - added it

Isabella Melanie wrote: "Isabella wrote: "I agree with Alexis on this one; STOP with the amazing books we all want to read because I don't have enough money but omg i want them all??? :P"

Hahaha! I'm so sorry! But oh my g..."


It is! And it was freaking incredible. Ugh well now you have me convinced. This is like the fifteenth book I've looked to buy since I friended you. I got Mud Vein the other day after reading your review!!


Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen) This books was magical ❤️❤️


Melanie Isabella wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Isabella wrote: "I agree with Alexis on this one; STOP with the amazing books we all want to read because I don't have enough money but omg i want them all??? :P"

Hahaha! I'm so so..."


This comment makes me more happy than you'll ever know. Seriously, thank you for it. And happy reading, love! 💗xx


Melanie Kaylin wrote: "This books was magical ❤️❤️"

I am still in awe, Kaylin. How am I going to produce a decent review for this masterpiece? Ahhhh! Haha. 💗xx


message 10: by Petrik (new)

Petrik Fantastic review, love! Glad to see you find another favorite book of all time! :)


message 11: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Great review Melanie! May I rec my favorite book? Deathless is also a russian retelling with tons of mythology and magic!


message 12: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne The sequel is just as amazing! I really loved this book, too. Get your hands on the next one when you can.


Colleen Glad you enjoyed it! This was definitely one of the best books I read in 2017 and even more impressive that it's a debut! I'm super jealous that you got the ARC for the sequel!


Melanie Petrik wrote: "Fantastic review, love! Glad to see you find another favorite book of all time! :)"

Thank you, handsome! 💗xx


Melanie Victoria wrote: "Great review Melanie! May I rec my favorite book? Deathless is also a russian retelling with tons of mythology and magic!"

Thank you so much, Victoria! My other friend recommended me that too, so you both have to right! Seriously, you're the best! 💗xx


Melanie Anne wrote: "The sequel is just as amazing! I really loved this book, too. Get your hands on the next one when you can."

I'm starting it tonight! And I can't wait, but I also lowkey loved this ending, so I'm being a scared baby, hahaha! Thank you for your kind words, love, and happy reading! 💗xx


Melanie Colleen wrote: "Glad you enjoyed it! This was definitely one of the best books I read in 2017 and even more impressive that it's a debut! I'm super jealous that you got the ARC for the sequel!"

Awh, thank you, Colleen! Go request it on Netgalley, love! And if not... only a week left! Happy reading, beautiful! 💗xx


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

AGHH I NEED TO READ THIS *Drowns in TBR*


Jess (freaks over books) This is one of my favorite books of all time, I just got done reading The Girl in the Tower, and that one is just as good, no middle book/filler syndrome, it is every bit as whimsical and enchanting as the first. I was shocked that The Bear was Katherine Arden's debut, you would never know, I will read ANY future works of hers no matter the genre or content.


Melanie ilsa ➹ wrote: "AGHH I NEED TO READ THIS *Drowns in TBR*"

Honestly, I was so blown away by this. It's worth ignoring everything for! Hahaha! Happy reading, Ilsa love! 💗xx


Melanie Jess (freaks over books) wrote: "This is one of my favorite books of all time, I just got done reading The Girl in the Tower, and that one is just as good, no middle book/filler syndrome, it is every bit as whimsical and enchantin..."

This makes me so excited, Jess! Thank you for letting me know! I feel so apprehensive about starting book two tonight, because this one was so perfect and ended so perfectly! Ahhh! But now I'm mostly just excited! Haha. And same, I can't believe this is a debut. What talent. Happy reading, love! 💗xx


GrilledCheeseSamurai I gotta get this one read before Girl in the Tower comes out!


Bookphile I've been lucky enough to get ARCs of both of the books in the trilogy. I love them and can't wait for the third book.


Mischenko Wonderful review! A fave. <3 ;)


Kelly Brantley Ahhhhh I also LOVED this book. I finished my ARC of Girl in the Tower and I SWEAR it was even better than the first. Can't wait to see what you think!


Colleen Melanie wrote: "Colleen wrote: "Glad you enjoyed it! This was definitely one of the best books I read in 2017 and even more impressive that it's a debut! I'm super jealous that you got the ARC for the sequel!"

Aw..."

I did request it but got turned down. *Sniffle sniffle But I've got it on order!


Melanie Scott (GrilledCheeseSamurai) wrote: "I gotta get this one read before Girl in the Tower comes out!"

YES YOU DO! I hope you love it, Scott! Happy reading! 💖xo


Melanie Bookphile wrote: "I've been lucky enough to get ARCs of both of the books in the trilogy. I love them and can't wait for the third book."

This comment makes me so very happy! I trust you so much, and now I'm even more excited to pick up book two! Happy reading, love! 💖xx


Melanie Mischenko wrote: "Wonderful review! A fave. <3 ;)"

Awh, thank you so much, Mischenko 💖! xx


Melanie Kelly wrote: "Ahhhhh I also LOVED this book. I finished my ARC of Girl in the Tower and I SWEAR it was even better than the first. Can't wait to see what you think!"

THIS MAKES ME SO EXCITED, KELLY! I keep thinking that the ending to this book was so perfect, how could a sequel do it justice? And then you go and make me all happy! Haha! Thank you, love! 💖xx


Melanie Colleen wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Colleen wrote: "Glad you enjoyed it! This was definitely one of the best books I read in 2017 and even more impressive that it's a debut! I'm super jealous that you got the ARC for ..."

Awh, I'm sorry, Colleen! Netgalley can be so.... not informed on who they are giving arcs to and denying sometimes! But at least you only have a couple more days! Happy reading, beautiful! 💖xo


message 32: by Liam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liam Degnan Great review, Melanie ^_^. If you liked this book, I have a feeling you'd really enjoy The Golem and the Jinni if you haven't read it.


Jess (freaks over books) Liam wrote: "Great review, Melanie ^_^. If you liked this book, I have a feeling you'd really enjoy The Golem and the Jinni if you haven't read it."

That is one of my favorites as well, mythology/fantasy elements/ historical elements are not a genre that is often explored and when it is, it is sometimes not explored as well as I would like? Golem and the Jinni is for sure one! Please more books like this!


Melanie Liam wrote: "Great review, Melanie ^_^. If you liked this book, I have a feeling you'd really enjoy The Golem and the Jinni if you haven't read it."

Thank you so much for this recommendation, Liam! Now I have to put this on my January TBR! 💗xx


Melanie Jess (freaks over books) wrote: "Liam wrote: "Great review, Melanie ^_^. If you liked this book, I have a feeling you'd really enjoy The Golem and the Jinni if you haven't read it."

That is one of my favorites as well, mythology/..."


I am so excited for The Golem and the Jinni now! I love this comment! Haha! Happy reading, love! 💗xo


message 36: by Shalini (new)

Shalini I have yet to read this. Superb review


Melanie Shalini wrote: "I have yet to read this. Superb review"

Thank you so much, Shalini! It is going to make my top books of 2017, easily. I loved it so very much! I hope you do, too! Happy reading. ❄️☃️💙xx


message 38: by Shalini (new)

Shalini Melanie, I have so many of the 2017 books to read. I realised today it's last month of the year... Girl I am drowning in books to be yet read.. 😂😂


Melanie Shalini wrote: "Melanie, I have so many of the 2017 books to read. I realised today it's last month of the year... Girl I am drowning in books to be yet read.. 😂😂"

Love, I feel you. I am just looking at this January ARCs and wanting to cry, too! Haha! I wish us both the best luck! We are gonna need
it! 😂💗


message 40: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Debisschop Yay. I was torn on what to start next and really unsure about this. I hope I like it. I like your review.


Melanie Jennifer wrote: "Yay. I was torn on what to start next and really unsure about this. I hope I like it. I like your review."

I'm sorry I'm just now seeing this, Jennifer! I completely recommend this being read in the winter season! But I loved this so very much, and I hope you do too! Thank you for your kind words, and happy holidays! ❄☃💙xo


GypsyBookworm I really want to read this!


GypsyBookworm My sister already has and loved it so much.


Melanie GypsyBookworm wrote: "I really want to read this!"

You should totally read it, love! And you MUST read it in the wintery season! It's perfection! Haha! Come gush with me if you do pick it up! Happy reading and holidays, love! ❄☃💙 xx


message 45: by clara (new) - added it

clara great review melanie <3 it looks like i'll be adding another book to my christmas haul


message 46: by Kasey (new)

Kasey If you reviewed this book a 5star I know it must be good!


Holli 100 pages into it.


Melanie clara wrote: "great review melanie <3 it looks like i'll be adding another book to my christmas haul"

Thank you so much, Clara! And I hope you love it! Happy holidays! ❄☃💙 xx


Melanie Kasey wrote: "If you reviewed this book a 5star I know it must be good!"

Awh, you are just too kind, Kasey! But I do think this book has a lot of things to love about it, hehe. Happy reading and holidays, love! ❄☃💙 xx


Melanie Holli wrote: "100 pages into it."

Are you enjoying it? Ahhh, that prologue still gives me goosebumps! Happy reading, love! ❄☃💙 xx


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