Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden Review

The Bear and the Nightingale was my first reading of a Russian fairy tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Arden did an excellent job of bringing me into the world being presented. I could easily see the forest, their home, the village, and the darkness that seemed to surround the entire setting. For the majority of the story there was a chilling sense of foreboding that makes for an entertainingly dark fairy tale. 

Vasya's development as a young woman with special abilities was interesting. The obstacles and pressures that she faced after gaining a new step mother, who was supposed to be for her benefit, were all well done. The tension between Christianity and ancient magics are great plot drivers that Arden used well. 

If you are looking to read a fairy tale retelling with a darker bent, I would recommend picking up The Bear and the Nightingale. It makes a perfect winter read. I will be continuing this series as they are released. 

**I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

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.

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