Publisher: Del Ray
Publication date: January 10th, 2017
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 410
Series: Winternight Trilogy #1
‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’
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, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.
But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…
Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.
A beautiful fantasy narration based on medieval Russian folklore which will have you sucked in till the end.
The Bear and the Nightingale has become one of my favourite debut books of 2017. Katherine Arden is such an amazing storyteller, bringing and merging so many Russian folklores and giving a wonderful breathe of fresh air into it.
Off the bat, the world-building was one of my favourite things of The Bear and the Nightingale. As with all series tend to go, the first book is always a bit slow and Arden takes her time to build the world of medieval Rus’ and the village where we see our protagonist, Vasya, grew up. The world building was very detailed in my opinion, with various references to many folklores scattered throughout the book. You’ll feel a little bit out of place with the strange languages and terms she uses, but eventually you’ll get used as the book progresses.
From house spirits to lake wraiths, the extensive cast of characters in The Bear and the Nightingale is guaranteed to have you entranced for the entirety of the book. I got easily sucked in when the story introduced the lake wraith and the upyry (vampires), and things jumped to a whole new level when we start seeing Vasya’s connection to the spirits and guardians of the forest.
At times the book feels like a horror/paranormal book with the dark and medieval elements, and other times The Bear and the Nightingale feels like an amazing fantasy book with a kick-ass female main character. I can’t describe how much I love Vasya. Her fierceness and determination to believe in what she has faith in, even if it’s the opposite of what her people and priest tell her, is truly something we need to see more of in books nowadays. Vasya’s boldness and modern views are what give The Bear and the Nightingale its special quality. I cannot wait to see how she further develops her strength as the witch in the upcoming sequels.
“Am I a child? Always someone else must decide for me. But this I will decide for myself.”
The only thing that felt a tiny bit confusing was the direction of the book. While the writing for worldbuilding was great, there lacked a clear sense of direction for Vasya. We meet several characters that seemed like the typical villain in the book, but instead they’re thrown into the grey area of humanity dealing with their own flaws. It wasn’t pretty clear until 250 pages into the book, what Vasya’s mission and the true villain appear to be.
Overall, it was an amazing read with wonderful fantasy and folklore retelling elements to keep you entertained. Russian folklores have always been an enigma for me, and for most of you guys too I assume, so The Bear and The Nightingale is a great book to start with. I highly recommend this book if you want something unique with no typical relationship/character tropes.
Did I mention how awesome Vasya is?
“Married! Not to retreat, but to be the mistress of a lord’s domain; not to be safe in a convent, but to live as some lord’s breeding sow.”
Thank you Pansing Malaysia for proving an ARC in exchange for an honest review!