Taking inspiration from Russian folktales, this debut offering from Katherine Arden is sure to please readers who appreciate a well-crafted story and a new author to watch, Please read on for my review of
The Bear and the Nightingale
I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find in the pages of this book, but I am so very glad that I went on and explored. The exhaustive research into folk and faerie tales from the Slavic world is impressive, and resonates on each page. This book is not a rush to the finish story, but often hesitates and stalls, allowing the descriptions their time to shine, and imbuing readers with that sense of being there, enmeshed in the cold, as the pages turn.
A mix of historic fiction and faerie tale, Arden spends much of the book in explanation and family history for Vasilia, the heroine, and much of the information serves to highlight the source of her unusual powers and the conflicts that will come to be hers as benevolent and not so forces combine to test, task and strengthen her.
Told in multiple perspectives, some working better than others, the head jumping does take effort for the reader, but as the story is moving slowly, these moments often serve to flush out a visualization and allow the moments to grow exponentially, fixing the images in mind and place. Like all faerie tales, there are decidedly good and bad characters, and Arden has managed to place shades of grey in there, allowing choice and intention determine the outcomes. Wholly engaging and immersive, you expect to look out the window and see nothing but snow and trees as far as the eye can see.
The first of three planned novels that combine Slavic folk and faerie tales with fiction and a perspective that is wholly her own, Arden is an author to watch for those readers who enjoy a slower-paced story that arrives with a solid feel of new and different.
Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Fairy Tale Remix, Historical Fiction / Fantasy Elements, Russian
Published by: Del Ray
Published on: January 10th 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 48 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: