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
1101885939
Characteristics: 322 pages ; 25 cm

Opinion

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.


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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."

c
CEE8690
Sep 24, 2018

Book 1 of unfinished trilogy

f
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

l
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.

j
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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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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