The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Genre: High Fantasy
Rating: Three Petals
On the Author's Website:
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 night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
I received this book as an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
First, I have a confession to make: I am not finished reading this story yet. I prefer to read an entire book before putting together my review, but I've found that the fact that I haven't been able to complete this story is actually rather indicative of how my review would have gone anyway.
Vasilisa's birth is portend and she ends up being just as strange a child as expected. There's magic in her blood, the same old magic that still exists in the wild parts of the world. When her father's new wife begins to stifle the old magic, Vasilisa must do everything she can to save her world before it's too late.
This story is based in historical Russia and on all the old Russian fairy tales. I found all of that absolutely fascinating, particularly how the ancient tales are woven together in what feels like a very realistic version of what the real world was like back then. It really was masterfully written. However, the amount of detail in the book was excessive. I often felt like I was wading through description to get to the plot. Lovers of Tolkien or Martin will definitely appreciate the way this story was written, but I've had to read really slowly. That's why I haven't been able to finish reading the story as of writing this review.
Recommending this book is difficult. It's beautifully written, however it has all the excessive descriptions of Tolkien and Martin where you have to dig for the plot. I find books like that very difficult to read, but I know there are plenty of people that love that style of writing so I will recommend this book to them.
Maggie reviews paranormal and fantasy novels and novellas. She also interviews authors and hosts giveaways.