The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

Book - 2017
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"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, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift--a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Del Rey, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101885932
Characteristics: 322 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Arden's debut takes place in a fantasy old-world Russia, where folk tales and magic coexist with reality. Daughter of a prosperous landowner, Vasya has always been different. Like her late mother, she can perceive creatures that others can't, such as the benevolent guardians of the hearth and sta... Read More »

Chicago Public Library recommends this title as one of the best books published in 2017.

From the critics

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Jun 28, 2020

Beautiful written and incredibly story-telling. I felt fully immersed in the story of Vasya and the battles of new religion and the old faith.

Jun 08, 2020

Absolutely amazing book and trilogy! I did have some trouble reading it because of the different name variations in Russian culture but I found listening to the audiobooks helped.
After listening to this series I actually bought the books because I loved the story so much!
Highly Highly recommend to anyone and everyone!

Mar 31, 2020

This book flows really well even with all the different point of views and it just keeps you reading until you look up and realize that the sun has come back up and that the book is, unfortunately, finished. The Bear and the Nightingale takes place in a fantasy version of historical Russia and tells the story of Vasya and her family. It reads like a fairytale and is absolutely beautifully written. Vasya is a wild child with a touch of magic and a willingness to be brave. This is definitely a character driven story and if you love plot more, then this might not be the book for you.

Mar 20, 2020

PLOT: It is medieval Russia and a mother dies shortly after childbirth- finally getting the daughter she wanted- one that she knew would have the same magical gifts as her own mother once had. Gifts that were rumored to have been used to enchant the Grand Prince of Moscow himself. This wild child is Vasilisa Petrovna, beloved daughter to a Russian boyar (a land-holding Lord), sister to four siblings, and pain in the ass to devout step-mother Anna. Just as Vasya's mother had predicted, her daughter was gifted with magic- the ability to see and talk to spirits of the hearth, stables, and forest. Even as a child, young Vasya would bravely traverse into the forest without a care in the world, learning about plants, ponds, rivers, and the spirits that resided within. And thus she grows into a teenager who is willful, playful, and spirited. She is not like her sister Olga, who wishes to be married and have children. Vasya is at home in the forest, and sees herself as friend of the spirits around her. One day, a young, attractive, and ambitious priest (batyushka) arrives in her small village of Lesnaya Zemlya and almost immediately is drawn (obsessively) by the young and wild Vasilisa. The priest also finds that he is remarkably good at enrapturing the peasants around him- by preaching fear of God and promising hell to those who follow the old ways of Russia (offerings, etc. to household spirits).

Vasya's stepmother also sees spirits, but to the devout woman, they are demons. Already a nervous and emotional mess, she immediately develops an obsessive dislike for her youngest daughter as quickly as she begins to obsess over the priest (she keeps telling herself it's solely religious respect). Add to the mix Vasya's meeting of Medved, the Bear, spirit of chaos who is trapped in the grips of a great tree by his brother Morozko, death, or the Winter King, and trouble ensues. The Bear is nearing his time for freedom, Morozko's power is waning, and Vasya's fate is entwined with both the Bear and Winter King's destinies. As the dead start walking, the priest becomes increasingly obsessed, Anna calls for the convent life for Vasya to be rid of her, the crops start failing, and the Winter King beckons... well... V is in for a hell of a ride...

PROS: Everything. This story is intricate, with various points of view that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and told with such expertise that you will not want to put this book down. My plot line did not even mention all of the characters that play major roles and so does not scratch the surface of this deep and poignant tale. This novel is not just about the conflicts between Russia's old ways and the incoming Catholic faith, a story about a girl struggling to remain true to herself, impossible love, or the saving of an empire, it is a story that weaves all to create a masterpiece of a folklore-based novel.

CONS: None. Zero. Zilch. Just read it.

Feb 24, 2020

Between my childhood and early 20s, I read a decent amount of fantasy. Certainly the biggies - LOTR/The Hobbit, Earthsea, Narnia, Shannara, plus other less popular titles. But I got away from fantasy for the bulk of my adulthood, with the great exception of those books featuring that boy wizard and his friends. Daughter Victoria recommended this to me and frankly, I kept putting it off. Stupid me. I LOVED this book. A beautifully written story with many classic fairy tale elements -it kept me on the edge of my seat, breathless and dreamy all at once. It's the story of Vasila, a girl with many gifts that bring her to the attention of both evil and benevolent beings. Can't wait for the second and third installments.

The only reason this didn't get 5 stars from me is that Victoria assures me that the second book is even better, so I had to leave room for a higher rating! It wouldn't be surprising if I come back and change those little gold stars up there...

Jan 06, 2020

Though I really do not like Russian folklore ( I am Russian and read a lot of fairytales in my childhood), surprisingly, I greatly enjoyed all three books of the trilogy. The whole atmosphere felt very true and magic! I just believed it and enjoyed it- something that didn't happen when I tried to read Gentlemen in Moscow ( that felt fake and had zero Russian atmosphere). So , if you'd like to read something light and making you feel like a child, listening to a magical fairy tale, this is a great book!

Oct 26, 2019


Oct 18, 2019

A beautifully imagined combination of Russian folklore and historical fiction. This is the first book in an amazing trilogy that gets better with each novel; The Girl in the Tower followed by the heroic conclusion in The Winter of the Witch. Magnificent to read, even more impressive to listen to on audio.

JCLSamS Sep 18, 2019

There are so many things I enjoyed about this novel: the setting of a remote medieval Russian village, the emphasis on Russian folklore and the creatures that appear in those tales, the main character Vasya, who is fierce and wild, and the historical realism. Still, there was something missing in it for me that I can't completely place my finger on. I wasn't sold on the romance element in the story and something feels off about the pacing, making the story structure not quite fit. Still a worthwhile read and an original story.

Aug 12, 2019

This was such a great read!!! I HIGHLY recommend it!! Arden’s writing was luring, fantastical! The title of the novel is perfect and its chapter headings are appropriate. I also loved all the characters (and their names) - but most especially Dunya, Pyotr, Morozko, and (of course) Vasilisa. I thought that the novel had a good ending (left me satisfied), yet I still feel excited that there is a whole series ahead. Beautifully written fairy tale! I can’t believe this is Arden’s first book. Well done! A TRUE 5-STAR NOVEL!

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ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

ArapahoeKatieK thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

A story about Russian folklore. A girl is born to a Russian landowner in the middle of winter and there is something special about her. A tomboy from an early age, she spends her first decade and a half figuring out who she really is and how to use her abilities, how to fight evil, and how to keep her family safe.


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