Reading this book was a wonderful way to start off 2017! I felt like I had lost a friend when I had finished. Let's talk about it!
The Bear and The Nightingale
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.
The Bear and the Nightingale was the perfect book to read on a day where I could see snow falling through the window. Arden's writing is lush and beautiful. I adored the fairy-tale feeling of this story. Everything was vivid from the characters to the Russian setting. I was completely immersed.
The book started off a bit slow for me. The writing was exceptionally gorgeous from the beginning, but I had to get used to a slower pace and lots of characters. Once, I was a few chapters in though, I was in for the long haul. I loved Arden's eye for details and I could tell she was passionate about creating a world that seemed real. The Russian setting was exquisite. Also you learned a lot of character's backstories.
Our whole cast of characters was intriguing. Vasya, her father, step-mother, brothers, sisters, nurse, Konstantin, Frost, and many more characters play a part. Vasya is wild, independent, and strange. She's victim to being a woman in medieval Russia so she's treated like property a lot, although she rarely lets others control her. She can ride a horse as good as a man. And she rebels against marriage and the church. She's the underdog you have to root for. There's not a major romance plot line for Vasya here, but I sense one in later books.
One of our main conflicts is the church vs common local beliefs in spirits and fairytales. When a renown priest comes and strikes fear of God into the hearts of the townspeople, the spirits grow hungry and restless as they are ignored and forgotten. Vasya knows this isn't good. And she can see these spirits, and she is also the target of a great evil. The ending of the novel is climatic, powerful, and left me breathless.
Overall, I cannot recommend The Bear and the Nightingale enough. If it starts off feeling slow to you, persevere! I was so glad I did. This is a magical, well-researched, intriguing read. If you love medieval Russia, fairy tales, religion and myths, and atmosphere, pick this book up! I cannot wait to see what Arden does in the sequels. I want to see more of the brother, Sasha, and Morov, The Frost Demon, in book two.