The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

Book - 2017
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"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, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Del Rey, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101885932
Branch Call Number: F Arde
Characteristics: 322 pages ; 25 cm


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May 26, 2019

I felt like a kid again with this book (In a good way). Initially it truly feels like a fairy tale and creates that sense of wonder.

The writing is beautiful and among other things does a great job evoking harsh Russian winters, the lurking fears of the family and townspeople, and the personalities of the characters and what drives them. It's a world you can readily get lost in.

The plot is a very slow burn. It`s fairly clear what events are leading towards for most of the book so it was frustrating to only get a very small slice of quick resolution at the end. However I think that is highly subject to personal preference. The rest of the book does a good job gradually heightening the tension and terror. It was done well, I just got a little impatient with it.

I loved the heavy use of Russian folklore and culture. The author must have struck pretty closely to naming traditions because there were variations on each characters name depending on the way someone else was talking to them. This was initially a little confusing but more because of not having seen anything like it before. It`s obvious who is being spoken to though.
Also...they`re pretty hard on Christians in this book. Not unfairly I thought. I enjoyed the theme of old traditions versus new ones. If you`re easily put off though you probably won`t like it!

May 25, 2019

I just picked up The Girl in the Tower. Can't wait to know what happens next.

"Now hear me. Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale."

Apr 14, 2019

A one-eyed man, a bear, a storm. It's told like a myth, the way Neil Gaiman writes sometimes. It's been ages since I read a book with a talking horse, and even longer since it was a Good Book. Highly recommended!

Mar 08, 2019

Interesting and lots of potential but did not quite scratch my itch.

DBRL_ANNEG Jan 23, 2019

Magical tale set in a wintery, medieval Russia. This is a world where the creatures of fairy tales actually exist (and if you're lucky, help out with chores around the house--I really need a Domovoi in my life!) It is also very much grounded in the realities of the time--girls who faced life in a convent or an arranged marriage, the religious zealots fighting against the old-time beliefs, and the age-old struggles of royal families to take over or maintain power over the throne.

I was enthralled by this book; it was the perfect book for a long, cold weekend and I'm glad it's the first in a trilogy.

Jan 20, 2019

This book is one of those lovely fantasy meets history meets magic type of novels. It puts me in mind of Juliet Marillier stories- sweeping, with a courageous and compassionate heroine, complicated mythical beings, and families that issues.

The setting is definitely Russia (north of Moscow), roughly 14th century. It's a retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful, although with less Baba Yaga and spirits of hearth and wood instead of a creepy wooden doll. Arden has done an admirable job of taking a bizarre fairytale and turning it into something lyrical and lovely. Vasya's strength lies in her self-assuredness, her wildness (her belief in the natural world and its magic), and her loyalty. She performs heroic deeds and perseveres in the face of adversity- but all of that is communicated as if the story were being told over a fire by a master storyteller.

From the first page, this novel drew me in and enchanted me. And can we talk about the velvety cover for a moment? Lovely.

I want to see more or Morozka (of course- I need some god/mortal romance, apparently), and more of what Vasya will do next. I fully intend to continue the series, once book 2 is published. The title is a bit awkward, given it touches on the primary antagonist and a side character that is introduce in the final handful of chapters- unless it's an allusion to something that I'm not understanding? Anyway, other titles that would've worked: "Vasilisa Smashes the 14th Century Patriarchy", "You Say Witch, I Say Savior", "Vasilisa and the Hot Winter God", etc.

I recommend this for fans of good fairytale retellings, lyrical (but not florid) prose, historic fantasy, and Russian folklore.

Jan 02, 2019

Loved it. Already looking for next in trilogy. Atmospheric fantasy based around Russian folklore.

IndyPL_SteveB Dec 27, 2018

Atmospheric and beautifully written fantasy, based on Russian folklore.

In an era where women are expected to have children or become nuns, Vasilisa grows to be wild and independent – and she sees the household spirits. When her widowed father is forced to marry the sister of the Grand Prince, they discover Anna, the new wife, can also see the spirits. But since she is deeply Christian and not acquainted with Russian peasant tradition, she thinks she is seeing demons. Also into this mix comes a young charismatic priest, Father Konstantin, who believes that God has called him to cast out the demons. Something is indeed speaking to him – but it is not God. Anna and Father Konstantin do not understand that a great conflict is about to begin, for there are greater beings in conflict in the Russian winter than mere household spirits.

I am glad I read this in the spring, for the sense of winter in the book is so deep that one might get even colder reading it in January. Vasilisa is a wonderfully strong female character, ready to go against the standards of womanhood for her culture. The other main characters, including several of the more powerful spirit beings, are also well portrayed. The story starts a bit slowly as the author builds the atmosphere, background, and characters; but once Anna and Konstantin are added to the mix, the pace builds rapidly. First of a series.

Dec 18, 2018

I don't read many fantasy/legend/allegories but this one captivated me. Having a Russian ancestry I enjoyed reading many of the "tales" my grandmother told me about life in and around Kiev. I was able to recognize many of the terms for the household spirits and even the description of the ovens and construction techniques in the forest villages. I loved this book and was very sad that I had to finish it - I wanted it to go on forever.

PimaLib_ChristineR Nov 09, 2018

Have you ever read a book you don't know much about, and reaching the end, realize it is a trilogy, and you hope you haven't read it too soon so you're forced to wait for the next book, because you really, just. Can. Not. Possibly. Wait? That was this book and I'm so glad I can drive right into the next in the series.

Set in Rus, in, I'm guessing, the 14th century, Arden uses historical detail to firmly set the story in reality, while adding the magical touches that make it into a modern fairytale. Vasilisa is our heroine, able to see the spirits of hearth and forest which all the village still believe in without seeing. Tributes are left, until a new priest, seeing their old-fashioned ways, convince the villagers that they cannot worship the Christian God and the pagan spirits as well.

The strength of this story is twofold, the setting in a small village in the forests of northern Russia is a character in itself. The village life revolves around the changing seasons. And the character of Vasilisa is mesmerizing. We see it not only in her own actions, but in how those around her react to her. Her belief in herself to protect those she loves cannot be undermined by anyone, natural or supernatural. Part of the magic of the story is that it is about Vasilisa. Not about her falling in love, or developing a better relationship with a family member, or becoming a stronger person. It's simply about her, as she is, and the fact that she is strong enough to carry this novel on her own is a credit to Arden.

As some have noted, the end of the book takes a sudden turn, but in the way of fairytales, I didn't find this unbelievable. Lyrical is a word that gets thrown around easily, but here is a novel to which it truly applies.

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ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

ArapahoeKatieK thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

A story about Russian folklore. A girl is born to a Russian landowner in the middle of winter and there is something special about her. A tomboy from an early age, she spends her first decade and a half figuring out who she really is and how to use her abilities, how to fight evil, and how to keep her family safe.


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