Today’s review is on The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.
Russia and folklore and bears oh my!
If you like any of the above then The Bear and the Nightingale might be just the book for you.
Did I like Arden’s take on new Russian folklore?Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
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 step-daughter 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.
If you like atmospheric fairy tales that take place within Russian history, then The Bear and the Nightingale should be the next book you pick up.
Arden is masterful when it comes to the way she writes, portraying The Bear and the Nightingale like a well worn folktale rather than a debut novel written by a recent college graduate.
Each character in the novel has a specific purpose within the narrative, which in turn made me react to their actions the way in which Arden was trying to elicit.
I think where The Bear and the Nightingale fell short for me lies in the audiobook. I initially started this book by physically reading it, however, the book itself leans heavily on Russian influences and as such, I thought the audiobook would be better in understanding the pronunciations. When I began to listen to the audiobook I was better able to pickup what Arden intended, but her writing is so descriptive that I found myself having to rewind certain passages due to missing key elements of the plot.
The story Arden weaved was interesting enough to make me grab the sequel when it is released in 2018. However, now that I know how to pronounce the Russian names or places, I think I’ll be sticking to my eyes instead of ears when it comes to devouring the series.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.