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The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy, #1)
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This is our discussion of the contemporary fantasy novel....

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1) by Katherine Arden The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
(2017)


Kivrin | 452 comments Really enjoyed this one. The author really created a world I could feel--the cold, the hunger, the darkness. Made me shiver! I also enjoyed learning about the Russian myths.


NekroRider | 321 comments Read this book last year and loved it!


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I'll be finished in the next few days. The pace is somewhat slow for me although I am enjoying the juxtapositioning of religion and peasant myth in the Russian countryside. This one is often compared to Uprooted by Naomi Novik due to both stories being based on Russian folk tales. I preferred Uprooted to be quite honest because it was simply more entertaining.


Allison Hurd I found this book really cozy and the setting to be gorgeous.


message 6: by Ivy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ivy | 22 comments I read this for my library's book club in January. I absolutely loved the evocative language and the setting. I felt a chill in the room while reading, and really wanted my own oven to sleep on...have you googled those ovens yet? They are a crazy combination of functional and beautiful. Those finding the pacing a bit slow are not alone. The first time I read it I felt some of the information was unnecessary. One the second go, it went faster, especially knowing where the second volume is headed. There's some set up for the rest of the trilogy foreshadowed in the first book. I liked the characters though, and the dynamic between the siblings, the dark twists inspired by old folk tales, and look forward to reading the other two volumes.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Ivy wrote: "One the second go, it went faster, especially knowing where the second volume is headed. There's some set up for the rest of the trilogy foreshadowed in the first book."

Have you read the entire trilogy? How are the second and third books?


Rachel | 522 comments The Atmosphere in this book is a winner - but I don't like it comparing it to Uprooted - yes eastern europe similarities but - really the feel and meaning to the books seems so different. Maybe comparing it to Deathless is more useful?


message 9: by Ivy (last edited Mar 21, 2018 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ivy | 22 comments Randy wrote: "Ivy wrote: "One the second go, it went faster, especially knowing where the second volume is headed. There's some set up for the rest of the trilogy foreshadowed in the first book."

Have you read ..."


I only read the first few chapters of book two, then had to return it to the library :( Book three is due out in August. I was planning on waiting until august to purchase the last two books.

I work at a library...so if I'm buying a book that means I REALLY like it!


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Okay I get to be a nattering nabob of negativism.

It's a quick read, only took two days.

First Quarter: Russian-ish setting is a bit different. Tosses in some Russian beverages, clothing, and of course, character names. Dunya tells a fairy tales to start the story, to set the mood ? The mood isn't set, at least for me. What mood?

Mostly, I'm bored. PoV shifting through a lot of characters, few of whom seem interesting or particularly well developed. Vasilisa, aka Vasya, clearly intended to be main character. Mom says so. (So, soon, will a mysterious stranger giving out even more mysterious magic necklaces.) Marina, aka Mom, gets fridged. Pyotr oscillates between strict disciplinarian and softy. Crazy Anna marries Pyotr. Wise old Dunya runs the household. Sasha, aka Sashka, goes to a monastery (presumably to return.) Kolya, Pyotr's heir, Olga/Olya & Alyosha kind of sink into the noise.

Ivan & Aleksei get a couple of small PoVs in Moscow's court, mostly to frame some politics (& intro Anna), but they're basically just two cardboard guys plotting and scheming to set the plot. (Couldn't that have been folded into Pyotr's PoV. Every minor actor doesn't need a PoV to instigate a plot event.)

At the start I'm a little confused by Pyotr Vladimirovich's status. He seems a peasant, with everybody sleeping on top of the same oven. (Also, not really clear on the visual of how you sleep on top of an oven, but no matter.) Then it turns out he's a Lord of rich lands. And he returns from Moscow with a huge Royal dowry,

But mostly, the story lacks direction or momentum. It's not obviously headed anywhere.

I find the prose a bit flat, devoid of wit. For a fairytale, it lacks charm in the telling. It's not bad or anything, just bland. Maybe it's an unfair comparison since I just finished reading a lot of Le Guin, a hard act to follow.

-- more when it's OK to drop spoilers --


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

NekroRider wrote: ""Russian-ish setting"? Arden actually studied medieval Russia, Russian folklore and language,"

Since I didn't study medieval Russian life & folklore, it's all "Russian-ish" to me. :) I'll grant it verisimilitude, but can't vouch for its accuracy either way.

NekroRider wrote: "That antagonistic relationship between remote/rural nobility, tradition/religion and overall lifestyle vs urban nobility, tradition/religion and overall lifestyle was one of the main themes. "

I didn't pick up on the antagonism. (Later in the book) Grand Prince Ivan Ivanovich of Moscow, from what little we see of him in the book, seems to respect his brother-in-law Pyotr as a rich lord and fair, and thus suitable as husband to Anna. (The other reason for marrying Anna off to him is he's a long way from the capital, so it gets Crazy Anna out of sight, but that doesn't seem to be intended to be a punishment for Anna, just a way of getting her out of the political spotlight. Ivan & Aleksei think she'll be "happy enough".

NekroRider wrote: "Minor nobility in the middle ages weren't exactly living in the lap of luxury. "

Yeah, I figured cell phone coverage would be spotty out there. It did strike me that if Pyotr's wife, Marina, was malnourished, a Lord of estates the size of Pyotr's, could manage some extra food for her during pregnancy. The size of the estate seemed to grow as the story went on, eventually including a village as well as the estate, a church, & surrounding farms. I just felt a disconnect between what I eventually discovered was the size of Pyotr's Lands and the early impression they were starving peasants who couldn't get enough food for themselves, especially the pregnant wife.


Kivrin | 452 comments Randy wrote: "I'll be finished in the next few days. The pace is somewhat slow for me although I am enjoying the juxtapositioning of religion and peasant myth in the Russian countryside. This one is often compar..."

Agreed. The pacing was slow. And I found myself in no hurry to pick it up and finish the book until about the last third.


message 13: by Kara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kara I read this at the beginning of the month as part of a group read. I really enjoyed it! I didn't find the pacing to be too slow and found the smattering of Russian folklore to be interesting. I will check out uprooted someday.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Second Quarter: At about the 1/3 mark Vasya becomes much more interesting. (view spoiler) This introduces a sense of... wonder, I guess I'd call it. It seems like the story is picking up some mood. But then Konstantine arrives and Anna goes full on crazy/nasty/jealous stepmom.

The story now has a full cast of characters, and dropped the "mystery guy on a white horse" and "mystery necklace," but hasn't really focused on anything specific yet.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Second Half: : The pace picks up and the story now has a focus, as we get an idea the "Bear" (Medved) is bad. Konstantine has become the tool of evil, the meddlesome priest, purveyor of fear, bringer of discord, who thinks he hears the voice of God. Also, Walking Dead.

I liked the second half a lot more than the first. The first half is rather tedious, muddles around. Several characters such as Sasha, Olga, Prince Ivan and Sergei Radonezhsky get introduced, even have PoVs, only to vanish without a trace, sent off to a monastery or married off. None have any consequence for the story. I assume some of these, at least, return in later volumes, but within the context of this story that's a lot of wasted time.


message 16: by Andrea (last edited Mar 25, 2018 07:39AM) (new) - added it

Andrea | 2519 comments I'm now about 100 pages in. I'm finding it harder to get into than say Uprooted, though I've also been busy with other stuff that's limited my reading time so I've been reading at a glacial pace (maybe appropriate given the winter theme?) It definitely has a lot of potential though and right around this point I'm starting to get much more into the story. To be fair, Uprooted is only one book so it needed to move faster while this one can take more time since it's a trilogy.

G33z3r wrote: "Marina, was malnourished, a Lord of estates the size of Pyotr's, could manage some extra food for her during pregnancy. The size of the estate seemed to grow as the story went on"

I noticed that too. Now even the rich back then can suffer famines and the like but I didn't get the sense that was the case, so to find out later he's really quite rich kind of caught me off-guard if he can't even feed his wife. What must his servants been living off of if the wife of the master is nearly starving? We don't actually hear about the servants much (at first I thought there was just Dunya) but as the story goes on you find out they are there, in fact the house sounds quite large. It's almost like the circumstances of the family changes at a whim to suit the current section of the plot (i.e need to be poor enough so the first wife will die, then need to be rich enough to nab the daughter of a prince). I doubt the author had that in mind, its just what she allowed the reader to glimpse at any moment in time that gave that impression.

Anyone else have a bit of trouble keeping everyone's names straight? Between switching back and forth betweein their actual names and their nicknames I found I kept mixing certain characters up. Think I've got them straight now.


Kivrin | 452 comments Anyone else have a bit of trouble keeping everyone's names straight? Between switching back and forth betweein their actual names and their nicknames I found I kept mixing certain characters up. Think I've got them straight now.

That was one of my biggest peeves with this book. Everyone had too many names and nicknames. It took me forever to find out who was who. Even in the middle of the book, someone would use a nickname, and I'd have to stop and figure out who they were talking to/about.


message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 26, 2018 10:11AM) (new)

Indeed, many of the characters have three names (various alternates & diminutives), plus the usual substitutes. It's the unfamiliarity of those names, being based on Russian, that add to my western confusion. E.g., in our On Stranger Tides discussion, it wasn't a problem to understand that John, Jonny & Jack, as well as "Good sir" and "Gentleman," were all the same protagonist, or that Thomas & Tom were the same. But make that Olga, Olya, & Matyushka, and they are unfamiliar equivalents.


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Andrea | 2519 comments G33z3r wrote: "Indeed, many of the characters have three names (various alternates & diminutives), plus the usual substitutes. It's the unfamiliarity of those names, being based on Russian, that add to my western..."

I've been told that's the big issue a lot of people have with books like War and Peace or Crime and Punishment. Also to add to the confusion their last names are people's first names with a "vich" at the end. So you get things like Ivan Ivanovich (Ivan son of Ivan). I've noticed Vladimir as both a first and last name.

But I guess I really did sort everyone one since that problem went away around page 100. Plus my interest picked up as more fantasy elements starting showing up so my "glacial pace" melted and I got through 150 pages over the weekend. I might even be done today if I have enough time. Interesting character Frost is. Is he a villain, a protector, a lesser of two evils, or none or all of the above...

Must admit I keep thinking of American Gods rather than Uprooted when I read this, particularly due to Chernobog (which I'm wondering if he's the one-eye demon in this book). Also how all the household spirits are being forgotten and fading away.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I finished it and gave it 3 stars. I haven't decided yet if I will continue with the series or not. I don't really have a burning desire to find out what happened to Vasya, although I do hope someone remembers to feed the domovoi.

The book felt very authentic and well researched. I enjoyed the Russian folklore critters actually more than the human characters.


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Andrea | 2519 comments G33z3r wrote: "I liked the second half a lot more than the first. The first half is rather tedious, muddles around. Several characters such as Sasha, Olga, Prince Ivan and Sergei Radonezhsky get introduced, even have PoVs, only to vanish without a trace, sent off to a monastery or married off. "

My book had an author Q&A at the end (where the author was honest about where she tweaked some historical facts to match her story, such as Dmitri being a real person so obviously couldn't marry the fictional Olga).

One thing mentioned is that those characters that seemed to vanish from the storyline will play significant roles in the next book. Always a tricky bit in multi-volume series, the need to introduce certain characters at point X (i.e. Vasya's childhood) but the only need to continue their story at point Y in another book, particularly if they are geographically separated from the protagonist, as in this case. We do some POV jumping (like to her father, or Konstantin) but mostly it's Vasya. And I guess without Vasya we don't care to read about Olga having kids and just being a normal married woman (I'm sure her sister will make things far more exciting for her in the next book)


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrea wrote: "One thing mentioned is that those characters that seemed to vanish from the storyline will play significant roles in the next book...."

Yeah, I expected they were being set up to reprise in later books. I think it would have been quicker, for the sake of this book's early slow pacing, to just cover Sasha & Olga (and their new buds Radonezhsky & Demitri) in Peotr's & Vasya's PoVs. In later books, when we actually care about Sasha's & Olga's stories, I've heard of this fiendishly clever invention called a flashback. :)

I really think she bogged the early going down for a distant payoff.


message 23: by Andrea (last edited Mar 29, 2018 10:23AM) (new) - added it

Andrea | 2519 comments Aha, knew I read this somewhere. Thought this tidbit of info from the author was interesting. It was from the Q&A section on the GR book page:

Is Morov (Frost) an authentic deity in the pantheon or pagan Russian Gods? If so does the average Russian know of their pagan past.

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. 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.


So that's how I made the Chernobog and the American Gods connection. Must admit death god to Father Christmas is quite the evolution. I feel like our Frost King is somewhere in the middle of this transition. And in the way of many death gods, he didn't go around killing people himself, but rather took them after death to whatever comes next.

As someone who adores horses, I also enjoyed the equine characters. Even though they can talk and are thus intelligent, it didn't stop Mysh from freaking out and taking off with Sergei when her instincts kicked in, which gave it a touch of realism (any horse associated with the Frost King I assumed to be supernatural so those rules didn't apply to them, especially since one of them was actually a bird, well, I guess he was whatever he wanted to be...)

(view spoiler)


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrea wrote: "Did I miss who the Nightingale really was..."

Your reading coincides with mine.


message 25: by Cat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cat | 343 comments I didn't mind this story. But I didn't love it, or really care that much. I don't think I'll be reading the next one. I'm quite happy to leave it as a standalone - the ending was satisfying enough for me.

The Russian setting was interesting but I found that details were just kind of thrown at you. It was almost as if the author was trying to be so realistic with the setting that she forgot to add the atmosphere. The characters were wooden. There wasn't any real development for any of them. Except possibly, the priest.


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