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The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy, #1)
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Archive: Other Books > The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - 4 stars

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message 1: by Joy D (last edited Apr 09, 2019 10:25PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy D | 3884 comments The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - 4 stars

PBT Comments: This book is fantasy that contains a bit of Russian history. I would rate it 3.5 stars, but I rounded up since this is the author's debut and I found quite a bit to like about it.

In this fantasy novel based on Russian folklore, Katherine Arden has created a fairy tale with a strong female protagonist, Vasya. It is set in a small village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia in the middle ages. Vasya possesses an unusual ability to see the pagan spirit-creatures in an era when Christianity is gradually replacing the old beliefs. After her mother dies in childbirth, the nurse becomes a mother figure for Vasya. She and her siblings grow up hearing the nurse tell tales of the death-king of winter. Vasya’s father eventually remarries Anna, a Christian woman who also sees the pagan spirits and considers them demons. Anna becomes the “cruel stepmother” archetype of the fairy tale, while Vasya is the courageous and independent “wild maiden.” Anna forms a liaison with a vain and ambitious priest, Konstantin, who instills fear in the villagers and urges them to banish the old spirits. Vasya cares for the spirits and rebels against the priest. In the middle ages, women had limited options. They could get married or go to a convent, but Vasya desires neither of these options. Vasya, viewed as a witch in her home environment, struggles to find her path.

This book is outside my usual fare. I don’t typically read fantasy, but I mostly enjoyed this one. It starts out with childhood adventures in the forest but gets darker and adds more supernatural elements as the story progresses. I found it imaginative and it flowed nicely through the beginning and middle portions of the book. I particularly like the way the author paints a picture with words of the harsh Russian winter and the difficulties the families encounter in attempting to survive it. I thought the characters could have been a bit more developed and the ending felt disjointed from the rest of the story, likely due to setting up the sequels (one of the reasons I usually do not read books in a series). Overall, though, I found it a pleasing combination of history and folklore and a commendable debut. A handy list of names and definitions is provided at the back of the book. Recommended to those interested in folklore, mythology, fairy tales, Russian folklore, or historical fantasy.

Link to My GR Review


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Wonderful review! I've got this on my TBR and can't wait to read it.


Joanne (joabroda1) | 7872 comments This one was OK for me-I think 3 stars. I have had the 2nd book sitting on my real world shelf for over a year now and tell myself I will read it "soon"-just not calling to me. Why do I have the actual book-HA!- When I borrowed it I spilled (rather sprinkled) a few drops of water on it and my library called me out-I have it on my list to read for another challenge next month-we can only wait and see if that will actually happen.


message 4: by NancyJ (last edited Apr 10, 2019 08:05AM) (new) - added it

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5575 comments Joy D wrote: "The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - 4 stars

PBT Comments: This book is fantasy that contains a bit of Russian history. I would rate it 3.5 stars, b...

I particularly like the way the author paints a picture with words of the harsh Russian winter "



Thank you for such a thorough review! This is helpful information. I'm in the mood for fantasy or mythology right now, and I like historical or realistic settings more than a completely different world. I found it on lists of "literary fantasy" and "beautifully written" books. From your description it reminds me a little of Pillars of the Earth.

I'm hoping for a Russia tag this year as I have a lot of possibilities. I want to read Crime and Punishment and I'll need lots of motivation to help me actually do it.

Joanne, I feel your pain on having to buy a library book. I now own Cutting for Stone for the same reason. I also paid for a lost book about a month before I found it behind a cabinet. I'm happy I own it though because it came in really handy on a work project.


message 5: by Joanne (last edited Apr 10, 2019 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7872 comments NancyJ wrote: "Joy D wrote: "The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden - 4 stars

Knowing your reading taste now Nancy, I think this is a book you would really like-It has just enough "mystical" atmosphere.


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