The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Series: The Bear and the Nightingale #1
Publisher: Random House UK, Ebury Publishing
First published January 10th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, A / YA, Retelling
* Received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much! This doesn’t affect the review in any way. My opinions, are as always, my own.*
‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.
But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…
Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.
Vasilisa (Vasya) is the last born child of Marina and Pyotr. Dune, the nurse that once took care of Marina, now takes care of all her children. At night, when they were little, she loved to tell them fairy tales. But the one that most loved them was Vasya.
She inherited a special gift from her Grandmother: the second sight – which means that she can see and talk with invincible spirits and demons who live side by side with humans (these spirits protect people in exchange for their faith and offerings). But Vasya doesn’t know about her powers and grows as a wild child.
When mysterious things start happening in Lesnaya Zemlya (her home), Vasya will have to remember all those tales if she wants to protect her family. Because an evil force from an other world is awakening from its sleep and the dead are rising. Only the old Gods can save the people, but they turned their faith to Christian religion after the arrival of the young passionate priest Konstantin.
Now it’s up to Vasya and the mysterious Morozko (Winter Demon) to save the world from eternal darkness.
Something you guys don’t know about me, is that I always had a massive fixation with Russia. Russian culture, language, history, everything. I don’t know why but I always tended to love it. So when I saw this book I just had to get it! And I am freaking happy I did because I absolutely loved it!!!
This book is beautifully written and extremely well researched. The author is not Russian. However, she did live in Moscow and studied there. In her own words:
“I am not Russian, and my family is not Russian. I lived in Moscow and studied Russian between 2006 and 2007 and I was a Russian major at Middlebury college in Vermont. As part of my studies, I returned to Moscow in 2010. Russia has a history and a culture that I love, but not one that I was born to.”
This is the first book in a yet unnamed trilogy. The book is about a Russian fairy tale of Morozko, with historical fiction focused on the 14th century (it was considered a hard time for Russia, when it was partially under the rule of the Mongols). It contains politics, religion, family and folklore and those all together made this book unpredictable and unforgettable.
The first part of the book is more soft than the rest of it. After that, it started to get darker and sometimes scary. It was an extremely tense and unpredictable read. I couldn’t stop reading it. It was like I truly was in that dark twisted fairy tale. It’s not fast paced but it has a lot of things happening that will mesmerize you and make you love this world.
The characters are incredibly amazing and there are a bunch of them. They all somehow have an important role sooner or later. Some you will fall in love with and some you will hate with all your strength. The book is ruthless with actions and words and it makes you feel angry, hopeful, cold and fascinated.
You will love Vasya’s boldness and strength and you will love her power, that is both a gift and a curse in this world.
I absolutely loved the plot and just wished to have a bit more of Morozko and Vasya in it. I loved her adventures and her connection with these old gods. And just because everyone was against it, that didn’t make her change or hide. She continued to believe, and even people that talked bad to her she tried to help.
After reading this one I definitely need to get a fiscal copy of it and somehow be able to wait for the next two books! And according to the author, Morozko will have an even bigger part in the next books. Hopefully with Vasya by his side!
Also, in the end of the book, there’s a glossary (pretty cool right?) that I think, it should be read either before the book or during when you have any questions about the Russian words.
This is a beautiful and magical book that I would HIGHLY recommend to everyone. And especially if you love Russian culture like me.
Have you read this book yet?
Which moment was your favorite?