The Bear and The Nightingale – Book Review

Author : Katherine Arden

Publisher : Del Ray (Penguin Random House)

Pub Date: January 2017

Source : Own copy

Get the book from Amazon.in.

You can find my review in Goodreads page as well.

Book Blurb

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 25493853her 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..

My Thoughts:

This was truly enchanting and beautiful. I loved the book and I’m glad to have read it at least a year after it was first published.

The book begins with Dunya, the nurse of Pyotr Vladimirovich and Marina’s kids, narrating a story about the Winter-King, Karachun also known as Frost or Morozko, the demon the winter. She tells them about his kindness and cruelty and the story of how he rewards a girl for her courage and punishes another for her greediness. That’s the first introduction we get to have of the mysterious, mythological Winter King.

The book is full of Russian and Slavic mythological creatures and this is the first time I’ve read about them. I googled most of them just to have an idea because when it comes to picturing the book’s characters, especially in fantasy, I find it hard. So Google to the rescue.

If the domovoi wasn’t real, then what about the others? The vodianoy in the river, the twig-man in the trees? The Rusalka, the polevik, the dvorovoi? Had she imagined them all?

I loved how spirited and determined Vasya was portrayed throughout the book. Never yielding, never the one to give up but at the same time kind enough to animals and household magical creatures and ofcourse, a strong protective feeling towards her family, even to the ones who hated her. As a matter of fact, so were her siblings, Alyoshka and Irina and the father Pyotr himself. I definitely hated the Priest – Konstantin and his religious fanaticism.

I loved how the story moved easily and beautifully. The writing was nearly perfect, that you can almost feel the chills of winter with Katherine’s visually descriptive prose. Also loved how the author , in a not-so-subtle way points out how fear is instilled into people’s mind through religion. All of the nightmares listed in the book sort of creeped me out and I had to close the book at night and continue by day 😀

… he makes men afraid. He eats their fear, gorges himself, and sleeps until he hungers again. Disorder he loves above all..

Now, coming to the little disappointments in the book. Nearly 3/4 of the book later, the title characters come in and I was wondering whether Vasya was the Nightingale , maybe it was a metaphor. *still wondering*.  And there were few gaps as well which might be filled in the coming books but still made me wish to know more of Marina’s mother or the Winter King  or Sasha.

The book is the first in the Winter night series trilogy and I cant wait to dive into the second book ‘The Girl In the Tower’ which I will be getting in few weeks (Yayyy). I cant wait to read more about Morozko !

My rating 5 stars 🙂

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