Title: The Bear and The Nightingale (Book #1)
Series: according to Goodreads it doesn’t have a name yet
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Adult
Publisher: Del Rey
Format: ARC received at NYCC/Bookcon
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, 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.
*Trigger Warning: Rape Culture
**There is a glossary in the back of the book for Russian word meanings/translations
The Bear and The Nightingale is filled with Russian Folklore, Religion, Culture, and Fantastical Elements. We follow the family of the main character Vasilisa first before she is even born and we get to grow up with her also. The book starts off with kids being huddled together to hear the story of Frost, the blue-eyed demon, during a winter storm. While the mother of Vasilisa was carrying her in her belly, she always knew that Vasilisa was special and both her husband and the nurse told her to not have this baby. But she did and the day Vasilisa was born was the day her mother died. While Vasilisa is growing up, her father, Pyotr, decides that it is time to marry again because he feels that his daughter needs a mother in order to be tamed. Little do they know that the new wife wants nothing to do with them, she cannot stand Vasilisa, and she wants them to stop honoring the spirits. Then comes along a new priest, Konstantin, who also forbids the town to honor these spirits and puts the “fear of God” in the people’s hearts. Without the people knowing this starts to cause havoc in the forest, crops aren’t growing like before, evil creatures are coming around, the house spirits are moody. And Vasilisa’s stepmother wants nothing to do with her so it’s either marriage or going to a convent. But what no one knows is that Vasilisa’s gifts are growing and her nurses tale is slowly coming true.
The writing was phenomenal. It was atmospheric in the most beautiful way. It had almost a fairy tale vibe going on. Every time I picked up the book, I was sucked into the world and forgot my surroundings. I will admit that it is a tad bit slow paced which is why I bumped it down to a 4.5 rating. The story did drag a bit at the end. However, it was lyrical and even though it is being told from months before Vasilisa is born, it was a smooth transition from that time to her adolescence. I found myself drawn to each word that was being told.
The story is told in third person and I loved how we get perspectives from all the characters and we know what is going on with everyone as a whole. This worked out really well because all the characters involved in this story play an important part in the story/plot.
We get to meet many different characters in this book, therefore I will keep this part short.
Vasilisa the main character who is this ugly girl. I loved how fearless she is and brave. The protector of her family. She’s wild and never cared for what people told her. Someone always told her how to behave and she would rebel against that. She was her own person, unstoppable. We also get to meet the forest and household creatures (spirits) which I COMPLETELY loved because they get their own voice. Alyosha, Vasilisa’s brother was so caring and while he heard the rumors that his sister was a demon and devil like, he ignored them all and still believed in her. Dunya the nurse, I also loved her character because she like Alyosha was filled of love and care. I also loved how she definitely gave us that “grandmother” sort of feel. Frost, the winter demon, I won’t say much about him but that I loved his character.
This story is one that I will keep recommending to a lot of people. When I read that the author was making this into a trilogy I got excited because I was left with questions after the story ended. And I felt a connection to Vasilisa’s soul that I was just left with wanting more of her character. Although this is a short book, there were many times that I would put it down to just think. I liked how culturally heavy this book is and how the author did not hold back with portraying situations. I also really loved how Katherine Arden didn’t romantically involve Vasilisa with anyone, she was solely her own person.
The setting was great too. This is set in Northern Russia and the majority of the year in this book was filled of winter and snow. This book definitely gives you the “let’s grab a warm blanket and drink some coffee/tea” feel.
And lastly, I have to compare Frost the Winter Demon to the white walkers from Game of Thrones. If you love Game of Thrones, you know those scenes where the white walker is in the middle of the forest full of snow? That’s pretty much what you get in this book.
Grab this book and read it! This book will be released January 10, 2017