There are two things that drawn me into this book : 1) Russian folklore and 2) gorgeous cover. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book and I thought, even if I didn’t, the cover only was worth buying 😛 After reading it from end to end, I could say that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of those bizarre books that just work.
I always enjoy books with Russian vibe, but this book takes place in a rarely seen side of Russia. The characters live in this land called Lesnaya Zemlya, the northern part of Russia where the winter is so long. Since most of the stories take place in winter, the atmosphere of the book was cold and dark. Its depiction of winter nights and forests gave me chill. You just can feel the cold… figuratively.
The pace of the story was slow. It started before Vasya, our main character, was even born and ended until she was roughly 15. It was told from third person point of view and while at first I felt disconnected from the characters, I grew to love it as the story progressed. The way it was told was whimsical. It’s like hearing a fairy tale being read to you on a cold, dark night while you huddle under the blanket near the fire place. The prose is so rich, lyrical, and detailed. It was enchanting, but maybe not for those who prefer their stories fast paced and action packed. This isn’t that kind of story.
The Bear and the Nightingale has some of the most complex and profound characters I’ve ever read about. They’re just endearing! ♥ At least some of them, while the rests are infuriating but still equally complex. I love Vasya to pieces. She’s so brave and caring, loyal and innocent, but not naive. She loves her family and her horses and the magical creatures so much. It hurts to see her misunderstood by so many people. I didn’t realize how much I care about her until I cried for her 😂
I adore almost all Vasya’s siblings as well. Olga, Sasha (!!!), Irina, and Alyosha (!!!) (sorry Kolya, you didn’t make the list. You’re annoying). They’re so sweet and loving especially Alyosha. I love seeing his relationship with Vasya. He takes care of her. He’s skeptical, but he always believes in Vasya and he’s willing to get involved in whatever weird things Vasya does just so she won’t be alone. It’s sweet ♥ Sasha’s exactly the same, too bad he went to Moscow early in the book and we didn’t get the chance to see more of him 😦 Their father Pyotr isn’t bad either. He’s complicated and I like it. The only person I don’t like from this book is Anna Ivanovna, Vasya’s stepmother. She’s mean and cruel to Vasya </3
The plot didn’t really kick until the third part of the book. The first part was more about introduction and history. It talked about who’s who, Vasya’s mother, the kids’ childhood, and the original tale of the Winter king. Part 2 mostly talked about Vasya’s life during her adolescence and her relationship with the magical creatures around her. Now part 3 is when the story gets serious. I tell you, IT’S CREEPY. Like, seriously! I was scared??? I had to close the book because I read at night and the story started to spook me. Some of the scenes were really graphic too 😂
By the end of the book, I was feeling content but also unsatisfied at the same time. Content because it didn’t end in cliffhanger and we actually got to see the resolution of the conflicts. Unsatisfied because while one conflict was resolved, we know that there will be more to the story, so much more, and I can’t wait to find out what will happen next. I’m also incredibly excited because I heard book two will tell us more about Olga and Sasha, Vasya’s elder siblings who both live in Moscow.
ALL IN ALL, The Bear and the Nightingale was an enchanting story with rich and whimsical prose that will sway you with its magical vibe. It’s dark and cold and creepy but it will also charm you, especially because the characters are so endearing. However, this isn’t for the readers who like their story fast paced because this one is slow, but worth it ♥
Book Title : The Bear and the Nightingale (The Bear and the Nightingale #1)
Author : Katherine Arden
Publisher : Del Rey
Release Date : January 17th 2017
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.
Have you read The Bear and the Nightingale? What do you think about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts ♥ Also, I’m open to recommendations if you have any favorites Russian-inspired books 😀
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