The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

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 ni...

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Title:The Bear and the Nightingale
Author:Katherine Arden
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Bear and the Nightingale Reviews

  • Robin Hobb

    Just finished reading an ARC of this forthcoming book. You will have to wait until 201 to get your hands on it.

    First, a metaphor. Have you ever been about to eat something, thinking it's flavored with vanilla and cinnamon? Then you bite into it and discover ginger and nutmeg (also favorites of mine.)

    This book is a bit like that. It's fantasy. Okay, I've read lots of that. It's told rather like a fairy tale. Okay, ready for that.

    It's told a bit like a Russian fairy tale only the setting is very

    Just finished reading an ARC of this forthcoming book. You will have to wait until 201 to get your hands on it.

    First, a metaphor. Have you ever been about to eat something, thinking it's flavored with vanilla and cinnamon? Then you bite into it and discover ginger and nutmeg (also favorites of mine.)

    This book is a bit like that. It's fantasy. Okay, I've read lots of that. It's told rather like a fairy tale. Okay, ready for that.

    It's told a bit like a Russian fairy tale only the setting is very grounded in a reality that will leave your nose and toes chilled and make you wish a horse like that would come your way.

    That's as close as I'm coming to a spoiler. You deserve to read this book so the story unfolds page by page. Put it on your shopping list.

  • Mischenko

    To see this review and Q&A with the author, please visit

    Words cannot describe how much I cherish this book. The characters were described so well and the story was absolutely fantastic and so magical. ♡♡♡

    Certain parts of the story felt so nostalgic to me. It reminded me of my upbringing with my Russian grandmother and our old Orthodox Church. Matyushka, Batyushka and many of the other words in the story evoked a glimpse into my past. There wasn’t anything I didn’

    To see this review and Q&A with the author, please visit

    Words cannot describe how much I cherish this book. The characters were described so well and the story was absolutely fantastic and so magical. ♡♡♡

    Certain parts of the story felt so nostalgic to me. It reminded me of my upbringing with my Russian grandmother and our old Orthodox Church. Matyushka, Batyushka and many of the other words in the story evoked a glimpse into my past. There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about this book. Happy with all of it, every word, even the ending.

    I would definitely recommend reading the glossary in the back of the book first to understand the meaning of some of the words. ♡♡♡

    I have high expectations and can’t wait for the second book “The Girl in the Tower.”

    5***** and I’m definitely purchasing this one!

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    So this was... unexpectedly amazing. Somehow, I went into this thin

    So this was... unexpectedly amazing. Somehow, I went into this thinking it was a slow-paced, long-developing high fantasy novel, which is just completely untrue.

    , instead, is a compulsively bingeable, gorgeously written, and ridiculously compelling dark fairytale.

    Thinking back on this book, there are three things that stand out to me.

    Okay, first of all, this book has

    I can’t believe this is a debut, because the words just feel like they fly off the pages. But also, this is one of the most aestheticy books I have ever read and I

    it. It’s just all so intriguing and

    Wintrey setting. Magical forest. Fairy tale elements. Folklore gone right. Folklore gone wrong. Demons and dark creatures. Creatures somewhere in between.

    There’s an excellent cast of side characters; I’m a huge fan of Vasilisa’s sister and brother. Even the villains of the book, especially her stepmother, gained my sympathy; she is a fantastically compelling villain, so well-written that she becomes all the more sympathetic. But my favorite part of this whole book was Vasilisa and her character arc. She starts out a more naive character, young and treated well by her father, yet driven by her desire to be free and one with nature. But as the mistreatment by her stepmother grows, she becomes more and more determined to be free, which I found made for a

    compelling character arc. Thus, even when she’s not driving the plot, she feels like a major force in the book.

    is a dark fairytale, and like any good dark fairytale, it has a lot of meaning beneath the surface. This book deals primarily with religious oppression, and the way religion can be used for destruction. But it also deals with the specificity of the destruction of nature. Vasilisa's world is crumbling around her, and it's so difficult to witness. She loves this world so deeply. And just like our natural world, it is beginning to crumble.

    I don’t know how I’ll feel about

    , but I’m super excited based off where this ended. There’s a nice setup for some moral greyness, maybe, and I really like that the love interest is a death frost demon. No, really. Beautiful and terrifying, and with

    , I cannot recommend this enough.

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  • Melanie

    This book is magical. This book is whimsical. This book is one of the best things I’ve read in my entire life. I loved this with every bone, every red blood cell, every molecule in my body. This book was nothing short of perfection, and I’m sorry to gush, but I never expected this story to captivate me the way it did.

    This book is magical. This book is whimsical. This book is one of the best things I’ve read in my entire life. I loved this with every bone, every red blood cell, every molecule in my body. This book was nothing short of perfection, and I’m sorry to gush, but I never expected this story to captivate me the way it did.

    I’m not even sure where to begin with this story, but I guess I will start by saying that this story is a love letter to stories everywhere. This book is a mash-up retelling of many Russian fairy tales, but with unique spins of them, which are woven together to tell such a beautiful tale that makes me breathless just thinking about how expertly it is crafted.

    Vasilisa and her family live on the edge of the Russian wilderness. Vasilisa’s father rules these lands, and her mother died giving birth to her, knowing that she was special. Vasilisa was raised by her mother’s nursemaid, who is constantly telling her fairy tales that most Russians fear, but Vasilisa loves.

    Vasilisa soon realizes that she is indeed special, and that she can see creatures that most people cannot. And, again, instead of feeling fear, she feels compassion and befriends and takes care of all the different creatures that dwell on her lands.

    And even though Vasilisa’s family accepts her, the rest of the community cannot see past how different she is. Vasilisa’s father tries many different things to get her to want the same things most girls in this time want (marriage, babies, performing “womanly” duties), while Vasilisa only wants to be free and see the world.

    Meanwhile, there is a frost-demon that does everything to ensure him and Vasilisa’s paths cross. And Vasilisa couldn’t resist the urge to go to him even if she tried. Then a beautiful story unfolds about a girl, a nightingale, and a bear, who are destined to have a story told.

    Like I️ said, it’s now an all time favorite for me! I️ truly loved this story that much. It deserves all the praise, all the hype, and all the love.

    ✘ Feminist as all hell

    ✘ Magical forest

    ✘ All the morally grey characters

    ✘ Mythology and folklore

    ✘ Little fae folk saving the day

    ✘ Wintery setting

    And when I say that this is the perfect winter read, I mean it with everything that I am. Never have I ever read a better seasonal read. Please give this a try in the upcoming months. I promise you, you won’t regret it

    This book was nothing short of magical. From the lyrical prose, to the atmospheric town and forest, to the characters that constantly had me crying, to the message that girls can be anything they want to be, no matter what society tries to confine them to. This book is a tangible piece of heaven and I am so thankful that I was able to read this before the end of 2017, because it truly is a shining star in 2017 publications. I cannot wait to start my ARC of

    tonight!

    And this book is extra special to me, because this is the book that all the wonderful people at

    gave to me! Which makes it all the sweeter that it ended up being one of my favorite books of all time.

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  • Emily May

    Narrated in lyrical prose and third-person past tense, Arden weaves a tale no less compelling for its slow, gradual development. Like all the best fairy tales, the author draws on the setting - a village in the northern woods of Rus' - to create an atmosphere that

    is the key word here:

    captures that feeling of uncertainty and superstition

    Narrated in lyrical prose and third-person past tense, Arden weaves a tale no less compelling for its slow, gradual development. Like all the best fairy tales, the author draws on the setting - a village in the northern woods of Rus' - to create an atmosphere that

    is the key word here:

    captures that feeling of uncertainty and superstition. The characters are somewhere between the old and the new; believing in modern religion but still deeply tied to the stories of old - the creatures that hide in the dark, the demons lurking in corners, the spirits living in the woods.

    The protagonist is Vasya, a feisty, stubborn girl who always manages to find her way into adventure and, often, trouble. Quick-witted and rebellious, it's hard not to fall in love with her instantly. There's a sense throughout that she is at one with nature, belonging to the very setting of the novel - the wild, rugged landscape of her youth. She is most at home when running and playing in the woods.

    When her father remarries and brings Vasya's intense and devout new stepmother back to their village, the safety of everyone is threatened. Her stepmother refuses to appease the creatures of the forest and darkness creeps ever closer. The arrival of a young priest who challenges the people's belief in the old spirits endangers them further. It is Vasya - and her own strange gifts - who is the family's only chance against the evil spirits at work.

    ; one so deeply atmospheric that you can almost feel the cold air on your skin as you're reading.

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  • شيماء ✨

    There’s a weirdly intense spot in my heart occupied by so much love and appreciation for lushly written magical tales imbued with the feel of centuries-old fairy tales. There’s just something extremely entrancing about this breed of fantasy that delves deep into the origins of storytelling and employs the stone foundation of fairytales to tell a story that is at once comforting and familiar as well as subversive, vibrant and new.

    This book shares the same DNA as Naomi Novik’s marvelously brillian

    There’s a weirdly intense spot in my heart occupied by so much love and appreciation for lushly written magical tales imbued with the feel of centuries-old fairy tales. There’s just something extremely entrancing about this breed of fantasy that delves deep into the origins of storytelling and employs the stone foundation of fairytales to tell a story that is at once comforting and familiar as well as subversive, vibrant and new.

    This book shares the same DNA as Naomi Novik’s marvelously brilliant

    , and

    : the three tales all center on young women who are stronger than they know and their monster-later-turned-ally who aren’t as monstrous as everyone think they are. It’s a premise that appeals to me so much, which is why this book worked so well for me!

    The people of a village in northern Russia have lived with the certainty that demons move through their world like they move through their words, disasters beyond its boundaries, and Vasilisa Petrovna—youngest child of a wealthy boyar and heir to ancient magic—has lived with the burden of it. Vasilisa can see spirits, the creatures of hearth, lake, stable and woods who protect her town and its people, and she kept this truth like a bird that she was worried of frightening away—until her father brings home a new bride who fears the wood spirits she can also see and forbids Vasya any communion with them.

    Not long after, a young, arrogant priest is sent to her village, ready to prod and stoke the rumors about demons, using it as his most powerful weapon because it is the villagers’ most potent fear, until they turn away from their old ways. When the people fail to pay the tithe that kept the spirits from fading, the crops wither away and the wolves creep close to the village and when Vasya’s many attempts to keep the old magical protections in place fall through, the townspeople all sought to repair the fault in the world by demanding to put her out of it.

    But the worst nightmare they could hope to conjure for Vasya would pale beside the one that already lived in the woods—blasted, hungry and more terrible than the Winter King himself—and that wanted Vasya and all she holds dear.

    is a very atmospheric, sprawling yet so deftly-crafted fairy tale that ticks all my reading boxes: witchcraft, magic, and history. It’s a gorgeous novel, grounded in Russian folklore but richly overlaid with an immersive, creative story of its own, and rendered in languorous and sensuous prose. The characters are ice and fire; they bite and fight and delight all at once. The plot moves with a slow grace, gradually building a world encroached by darkness and creeping inch by dreadful inch towards a freshly hideous future—unless the stalwart heroine, whose fate seems sealed to a provincial life but is suddenly uprooted, saves it.

    The author pours just enough nuance into each character to make them feel real in the moment, breaking them out of the trope mold and shaping them into something entirely unique. And it’s that delicate touch that keeps the novel from becoming relentlessly bleak. Vasya holds the spirit of a girl backed up to the world’s edge, ready to spread her arms like wings and fly or fall. She’s always refused to go along, to make herself small enough to slip past a looming danger, to stay quiet and unobtrusive; she no sooner thought a thing than said it, or wanted a thing than she tried to get it. Her fierce determination kindles. It’s always there, always smoldering, and it doesn’t take much to set it alight. I love how insatiable she was in her thirst for the extraordinary, how she didn’t settle for the mediocre and how her journey was about growing and becoming a more magnified, specific version of herself.

    was an interesting character as well—he and Vasya are so tangled in my mind, all blood and vengeance and strife, and I rooted for them.

    Moreover, I liked how this book captures the richness of relationships among family and friends, explores human and alien social structures, fathers and daughters, damaged relationships and hidden agendas and wrings out many lessons from unexpected consequences. It’s also refreshing to find a book where characters don’t fall in immediate, all-consuming, passionately forbidden love; each character by itself was a brittle, sharp-edged fragment, and they didn’t seek to palliate or soften their jagged edges to make a whole—and I like it that way.

    Overall,

    is a gorgeous medieval fable that blossoms into a thoughtful, emotionally complex tale. Every night, I would tell myself I’d just read a few chapters, and every night I’d blow past that because I simply couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!

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  • Miranda Reads

    This is the sort of book that

    you on a

    .

    Vasilisa "Vasya" Petrovna lives during the "old Russia" - back when

    Vasya always

    which made for some interesting conversations with the various creatures living in and

    This is the sort of book that

    you on a

    .

    Vasilisa "Vasya" Petrovna lives during the "old Russia" - back when

    Vasya always

    which made for some interesting conversations with the various creatures living in and around her home. All the spirits that live in and around her house were quite peculiar,such as the origins of the domovoi:

    Soon, Vasya's gentle childhood - spent conversing with the domovoi and the vazila (who guards the stables) - is put to

    Her father remarries and while the new woman has the second sight, she interprets the gentle protective spirits as "demons." In an effort to "protect" the now-teenage Vasya, her father (egged on and persuaded by her step mother) is trying to

    And, to top it all, a priest moves into their house and is

    (ha) on saving Vasya's soul but all he succeeds in doing is a lot of fear-mongering and weakening of the protective spirits. He quickly becomes obsessed with

    Without the spirits to protect them, Vasya must face the ever increasing danger of the old gods - alone and armed with nothing by her

    I really enjoyed this one - there's just something

    about having this novel set in the dead of winter with the

    the dimly lit sleepy cottage.

    Vasya lives in a world where being a

    is the highest achievement of any girl. I appreciated how the author showed Vasya's defiance in small ways (yet ultimately significant ways) - not every girl in YA fiction needs to

    Overall, I really enjoyed this one and have already checked out the sequel - I'm so, so curious to see what happens next!

    P.s.

    located in the last few pages. (

    ) The author used a few common Russian words and a few loose translations (i.e. the spelling of "domovoi" was intended to make it easier for English readers to read). I did struggle a bit to hold all the words in my head...only to discover the glossary at the end. Typical!

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