The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

Book - 2017
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CMLibrary_sdeason Jun 03, 2019

What a wonderful book!! Using literary tools from Russian fairy tales, the author creates a great book for modern readers. The main character is both a mystery and entertaining forcing you to seek out the other books in the trilogy!

s
starkshadow
Jun 01, 2019

Most of the books I’ve read recently have been just okay, but nothing that truly gripped my attention and only let go long after the book was finished. Some were definitely page-turners, but the characters were lackluster, the writing choppy and bland, the setting overused. This book changed that. It has everything I like in books: atmospheric writing that doesn’t fall into purple prose, unusual and fascinating setting, magic, folklore, and mysterious characters. All of the characters had understandable motivations, even the not-very-likable ones. Vasilisa was a captivating and lovable heroine who I can’t wait to read more about, although my favorite character was probably Morozko, the frost-demon. I also liked the strong feminist themes. Altogether a great book, 10/10 would recommend!

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misterwisp
May 26, 2019

I felt like a kid again with this book (In a good way). Initially it truly feels like a fairy tale and creates that sense of wonder.

The writing is beautiful and among other things does a great job evoking harsh Russian winters, the lurking fears of the family and townspeople, and the personalities of the characters and what drives them. It's a world you can readily get lost in.

The plot is a very slow burn. It`s fairly clear what events are leading towards for most of the book so it was frustrating to only get a very small slice of quick resolution at the end. However I think that is highly subject to personal preference. The rest of the book does a good job gradually heightening the tension and terror. It was done well, I just got a little impatient with it.

I loved the heavy use of Russian folklore and culture. The author must have struck pretty closely to naming traditions because there were variations on each characters name depending on the way someone else was talking to them. This was initially a little confusing but more because of not having seen anything like it before. It`s obvious who is being spoken to though.
Also...they`re pretty hard on Christians in this book. Not unfairly I thought. I enjoyed the theme of old traditions versus new ones. If you`re easily put off though you probably won`t like it!

j
JanetPDX
May 25, 2019

I just picked up The Girl in the Tower. Can't wait to know what happens next.

"Now hear me. Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale."

p
Palomino
Apr 14, 2019

A one-eyed man, a bear, a storm. It's told like a myth, the way Neil Gaiman writes sometimes. It's been ages since I read a book with a talking horse, and even longer since it was a Good Book. Highly recommended!

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lilyandbear
Mar 08, 2019

Interesting and lots of potential but did not quite scratch my itch.

DBRL_ANNEG Jan 23, 2019

Magical tale set in a wintery, medieval Russia. This is a world where the creatures of fairy tales actually exist (and if you're lucky, help out with chores around the house--I really need a Domovoi in my life!) It is also very much grounded in the realities of the time--girls who faced life in a convent or an arranged marriage, the religious zealots fighting against the old-time beliefs, and the age-old struggles of royal families to take over or maintain power over the throne.

I was enthralled by this book; it was the perfect book for a long, cold weekend and I'm glad it's the first in a trilogy.

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goddessbeth
Jan 20, 2019

This book is one of those lovely fantasy meets history meets magic type of novels. It puts me in mind of Juliet Marillier stories- sweeping, with a courageous and compassionate heroine, complicated mythical beings, and families that have...er..some issues.

The setting is definitely Russia (north of Moscow), roughly 14th century. It's a retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful, although with less Baba Yaga and spirits of hearth and wood instead of a creepy wooden doll. Arden has done an admirable job of taking a bizarre fairytale and turning it into something lyrical and lovely. Vasya's strength lies in her self-assuredness, her wildness (her belief in the natural world and its magic), and her loyalty. She performs heroic deeds and perseveres in the face of adversity- but all of that is communicated as if the story were being told over a fire by a master storyteller.

From the first page, this novel drew me in and enchanted me. And can we talk about the velvety cover for a moment? Lovely.

I want to see more or Morozka (of course- I need some god/mortal romance, apparently), and more of what Vasya will do next. I fully intend to continue the series, once book 2 is published. The title is a bit awkward, given it touches on the primary antagonist and a side character that is introduce in the final handful of chapters- unless it's an allusion to something that I'm not understanding? Anyway, other titles that would've worked: "Vasilisa Smashes the 14th Century Patriarchy", "You Say Witch, I Say Savior", "Vasilisa and the Hot Winter God", etc.

I recommend this for fans of good fairytale retellings, lyrical (but not florid) prose, historic fantasy, and Russian folklore.

f
finn75
Jan 02, 2019

Loved it. Already looking for next in trilogy. Atmospheric fantasy based around Russian folklore.

IndyPL_SteveB Dec 27, 2018

Atmospheric and beautifully written fantasy, based on Russian folklore.

In an era where women are expected to have children or become nuns, Vasilisa grows to be wild and independent – and she sees the household spirits. When her widowed father is forced to marry the sister of the Grand Prince, they discover Anna, the new wife, can also see the spirits. But since she is deeply Christian and not acquainted with Russian peasant tradition, she thinks she is seeing demons. Also into this mix comes a young charismatic priest, Father Konstantin, who believes that God has called him to cast out the demons. Something is indeed speaking to him – but it is not God. Anna and Father Konstantin do not understand that a great conflict is about to begin, for there are greater beings in conflict in the Russian winter than mere household spirits.

I am glad I read this in the spring, for the sense of winter in the book is so deep that one might get even colder reading it in January. Vasilisa is a wonderfully strong female character, ready to go against the standards of womanhood for her culture. The other main characters, including several of the more powerful spirit beings, are also well portrayed. The story starts a bit slowly as the author builds the atmosphere, background, and characters; but once Anna and Konstantin are added to the mix, the pace builds rapidly. First of a series.

s
Sundowner10
Dec 18, 2018

I don't read many fantasy/legend/allegories but this one captivated me. Having a Russian ancestry I enjoyed reading many of the "tales" my grandmother told me about life in and around Kiev. I was able to recognize many of the terms for the household spirits and even the description of the ovens and construction techniques in the forest villages. I loved this book and was very sad that I had to finish it - I wanted it to go on forever.

PimaLib_ChristineR Nov 09, 2018

Have you ever read a book you don't know much about, and reaching the end, realize it is a trilogy, and you hope you haven't read it too soon so you're forced to wait for the next book, because you really, just. Can. Not. Possibly. Wait? That was this book and I'm so glad I can drive right into the next in the series.

Set in Rus, in, I'm guessing, the 14th century, Arden uses historical detail to firmly set the story in reality, while adding the magical touches that make it into a modern fairytale. Vasilisa is our heroine, able to see the spirits of hearth and forest which all the village still believe in without seeing. Tributes are left, until a new priest, seeing their old-fashioned ways, convince the villagers that they cannot worship the Christian God and the pagan spirits as well.

The strength of this story is twofold, the setting in a small village in the forests of northern Russia is a character in itself. The village life revolves around the changing seasons. And the character of Vasilisa is mesmerizing. We see it not only in her own actions, but in how those around her react to her. Her belief in herself to protect those she loves cannot be undermined by anyone, natural or supernatural. Part of the magic of the story is that it is about Vasilisa. Not about her falling in love, or developing a better relationship with a family member, or becoming a stronger person. It's simply about her, as she is, and the fact that she is strong enough to carry this novel on her own is a credit to Arden.

As some have noted, the end of the book takes a sudden turn, but in the way of fairytales, I didn't find this unbelievable. Lyrical is a word that gets thrown around easily, but here is a novel to which it truly applies.

LPL_LeahN Nov 07, 2018

I wish I could give this book 10 stars! I just loved the symbolism and the depth. Not only is it beautifully written, the origination from Russian folklore gives it a fable-like appeal. But instead of preaching a moral, it enlightens you to the fact of life inevitably followed by death, and the old adage, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself."

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fforfox
Jul 20, 2018

It is beautifully written and has charm, but the pace seemed odd. Most sections were very slow and drawn out. Others were rushed as characters suddenly grew up or dramatic events were just briefly described. Character descriptions and development was excellent, and I enjoyed that. I liked the glossary at the back, great for those of us unfamiliar with the terminology or background. I was a little disappointed with the ending, and wished the spirits were more involved throughout. I guess I expected more fantasy, drama, magic, and adventure.

Overall a one-time read. No regrets, and I learnt a little about Russian folklore, but I wouldn't reach for it again. I would probably appreciate it more if I were more interested in Russian culture and stories. I do recommend reading this if you're looking for an easy, relaxing read.

ArapahoeKatieK May 20, 2018

This was one of those books that really drew me in and didn't let go of me until the end. Beautifully written with an expert knowledge of Russian Folklore.

k
katedelaney
May 18, 2018

This is a beautifully written fairy tale for adults, which is one of my favorite genres thanks to authors like A.S. Byatt, John Connelly and Susanna Clark. I found this book to be a bit less dark and gruesome than some of the other books of this genre I have read (The Book of Lost Things comes to mind as a particularly horror-laden example), and overall a fairly easy read with short chapters and a quick pace. The hero, Vasya, is a Snow White/Joan of Arc archetype, except the purity she represents is that of the old world, full of magic, strange creatures and many gods. Religion is definitely a major theme in this book, which pits the weakening old ways against the growing strength of modern religion/Christianity. It is a tale of changing times and changing cultures. The writing is very reminiscent of Brothers Grimm-type stories, except it is much longer, so there is plenty of character development and plot twists. I enjoyed this book and plan to read the sequel as well.

JessicaGma May 15, 2018

Set in Medieval Russia, this is a very wonderful tale of the old ways conflicting with the new. Vasilisa can see the old magical creatures who protect the hearth and town from evil, but a new priest has come, and tries to turn the town from the old ways. Vasilisa is a great character, and the story draws you in. I didn't think I'd like the book and I was 150 pages in with little trouble. Worth reading, especially if you like re-tellings of folk tales.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
May 07, 2018

"The stories are all true," or at least here all the Russian folktales are! From the beginning with a chilling story, to the end with a dramatic plot twist, the audience will be enthralled with captivation. Reading this, I could make connections to all the stories I read as a child (Cinderella - the evil stepmother, Snow White/ Little Red Riding Hood - the woods, Beauty and the Beast - the village's fear and aggression... etc). It is similar in plot to the book "The Beast is an Animal," but a LOT better!! It is truly a beautiful book, and I am currently very excited for the next!
- @Siri of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

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ldetrich
Apr 28, 2018

What a beautifully written story, fans of Russian folklore will find this completely engrossing and magical. The author's writing style is lush and vibrant, and the characters become alive on the page.
Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. I finished the book in approximately two days.

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jac523
Apr 25, 2018

This is a beautifully written novel. If you enjoyed Naomi Novik's Uprooted, this one is a must read!

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Linyarai
Apr 23, 2018

This had a really interesting premise, but I felt a bit let down by the slow pace. I would have liked more involvement from the local spirits.

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essvee
Apr 14, 2018

This was a fine Russian folktale. I had trouble getting invested and almost didn't finish, which surprised me somewhat because the writing is lovely and the characters are just fine. I just didn't really care how it was going to end.

I don't understand why it's listed as first of a trilogy. It stands alone quite well.

r
Rachelc24
Apr 11, 2018

I enjoyed this book very much. It transports you to the forest of Russia. A perfect fairytale.

kobrien3 Jan 23, 2018

I chose this book because I love fairytales and folklore revisited and reimagined for an adult audience. Set against the backdrop of winter in Medieval Russia, the Bear and the Nightingale is so beautifully written and captivating that I stopped halfway through to put the sequel on hold! If you enjoy stories with a strong female protagonist challenging the limitations placed on her gender by the society in which she lives (with a few fairytale twists) this might be the book for you. A perfect read for a snowy winter day!

k
KristyJewel
Dec 13, 2017

This book has changed how I judge fantasies. This is obviously my first book by Katherine Arden and I am so truly in love with this book. The characters that Katherine Arden wove are beautiful and complex. I spent the entire book in awe of everything that was captured.

The plot was unique and rivaled Juliet Marillier which from me is one of the highest compliments I can give. I loved the folk lore and how intricate the novel was. I spent my days not wanting to finish the audiobook simply because it would be over.

If you're on the fence about reading this book, just do it. I know that I personally avoid anything that is too popular but I am so glad I read this. It is so beautifully written and so well developed. It will be one I have to reread many times.


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