ARC Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

the bear andTitle: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publication Date:
12th January 2017
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
ISBN 13: 9781785031045
Pages: 328
Started: 22nd March 2017
Completed: 25th March 2017
Rating: 4.5/5
Summary: 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.

I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Katherine Arden, and the publisher, Ebury Publishing, for this opportunity.

This book is the first book of a fantasy trilogy set in medieval Russia by debut author Katherine Arden. Arden was inspired by her time spent in Russia and by a Ukrainian family who worked on the farm next to where she worked while she lived in Hawaii.

I do believe that this book works as a standalone novel.

This book captivated me from the very first word. It’s a book of rustic magic and mysticism and the story is fantastical and yet still realistic. It’s a masterpiece and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Set in Medieval Russia this book explores the old mythology of a newly Christian nation. Religion and mythology are at the centre of this novel as everything supernatural is considered a demon and people who can see them are often driven mad by their visions. Vasilisa is a strange child, one who has the sight and can see and speak to the creatures that inhabit her home and her father’s land, and she is the only one that can save her home from the evil lurking in the woods, something much more terrible than the Winter King that haunts local folklore.

Each character is fantastically well written and they all influence the story in their own way, despite the fact that Vasilisa is the main character. I really enjoyed the characterisation of Vasya’s father, a strong man who cares deeply for his children, despite the fact that he blames Vasya for the death of his wife. Vasya’s brothers and sisters are all equally well characterised and it’s wonderful to see such a great family dynamic in a story such as this one.

The final parts of the novel weren’t as good as the beginning or middle because it was used to set up the sequels but that doesn’t mean that it was bad. The ending was actually very good and I was fully satisfied by the ending. I wish that this book was a standalone because I enjoyed the ending so much, it just felt right for the book.

I would recommend this book to all of my friends because it’s such a richly detailed novel with a captivating plot. It feels as though you have stepped into a fairy tale and I love that. I will definitely buy this book for myself and I will re-read it several times in the future.

I look forward to reading the sequel when it comes out in January 2018.


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