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Gorgeous Fantasy takes Readers on a Journey through the Myths of Old Russia
February 3, 2017
The Bear and the Nightingale
by Katherine Arden
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 10 Jan 2017
The Bear and the Nightingale is a gorgeous fantasy that takes the reader deep into the mythos of old Russia. It is a tale for anyone who loves fairy tales, for their magic, mystery, beauty and danger. It is a novel fueled by firelight and dreams, seasoned both by hope and despair. The Bear and the Nightingale is one of the best fairytale fantasies I have read. It is a pleasure to experience the Russia of the past through the eyes of Katherine Arden.
Russia is changing, slowly leaving the old ways and accepting Christianity. The beings of myth and imagination are growing less powerful and are slowly fading away. Vasilisa, like her grandmother, is a girl gifted with the ability to See what others do not. It is with her that hope for the future lies. The Bear, the god of hunger and destruction is eager to awake, and his brother the Frost Demon is losing the ability to contain him. When Vasilisa's father remarries to a fervent and devout Christian and a new priest determined to stamp out the old ways comes, the Bear grows in power. Her father's people suffer. Ultimately it is Vasilisa and her vision that stands between her people and utter destruction.
The Bear and the Nightingale is beautiful. It is a powerful tale of magic, vision and developing the strength to do what is right. I highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale to those who love fantasy, fairy tales and coming of age novels.
I received a copy of The Bear and the Nightingale from the publisher and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
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 marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles nearer, 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.
Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale
“An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic.”—Robin Hobb, bestselling author of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy
“A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up.”—Naomi Novik, bestselling author of Uprooted