You Choose, I Read – Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale
By Katherine Arden
Publisher Del Rey
ISBN13: 9781101885932
Pages: 322
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale


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.


The Bear and the Nightingale was my first You Choose, I Read selection. I have to confess, that there was a certain amount of internal joy when I saw this title pop up on Rafflecopter, as it has been on my TBR for some time.

Russian folklore is something I have only recently been introduced to. But during my short time of acquaintance, I have discovered a deep appreciation for it. It is an area I plan to explore with every given opportunity.

For those of you who happen to be less familiar than myself with the folklore and Vasilisa, she is a traditional Russian fairy tale character. The differentiating quality of this particular young female protagonist is that instead of requiring rescue as we typically encounter in older fairy tales, she is better known for setting out on her own. She often overcomes a series of obstacles to defeat the villain. And here we are presented with another beautiful rendition of such tale.

Vasilisa has a hidden gift. One that she dares not share with others. She can communicate with the spirits of the forest and house. But when a newly arrived priest and her stepmother put a halt to the honoring the household spirits, things take a sudden turn. Winter settles in hard and the land fails to produce and provide. Lives are at risk and evil that has been contained within the forest quickly encroaches.  Now Vasilisa will expose her “talent” in effort to save her family and land.

For two reasons in particular, The Bear and the Nightingale pulled me deep within its pages and refused to release me.

  1. Exemplary storytelling.
  2. Adult fairy tale/retelling.

Character development was certainly among The Bear and the Nightingale’s list of shining accomplishments. I was not prepared for the fondness that I would  discover for Vasya (Vasilisa). Like an ugly duckling coming into her own, she is resilient and bold. Her growth and evolution easily rival those of any female character I have encountered over the last year. She commands respect and effortlessly fills those ever strong-willed and determined shoes you might be familiar with if you have experienced Russian folklore. Her brazen and spirited attitude in the face of constant adversity makes her as memorable as she is admirable.

The plot invites you in and promises to satisfy. All necessary components are in place and come together beautifully to create a unique and fascinating experience. The combination of Christianity intermingled among homes that still held Pagan beliefs proved to create a setting ripe with potential that the author did not neglect. Learning of each Slavic Spirit and how the household placated them was an intriguing facet that added a welcomed touch of culture and provided an appreciated depth and richness to the story .

Arden spares no want for detail while creating an enticing world that delivers all one could desire of a fairy tale. Expectations are exceeded. Saturated with folklore and fantasy, she  has taken classic storytelling to new heights. We are thrust into a culturally rich and atmospheric read that is so immersive you find yourself hard pressed to walk away.

With a gratifying conclusion that left me wanting more, The Bear and the Nightingale is now one of my top reads for 2017. Recommending this delightful gem to all fans of fairy tales.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Meet The Blogger Who Recommended This Book


Stephanie is no stranger in the book community. She can be found at Teacher of YA, blogging and reviewing YA titles while sharing valuable feedback regarding books in the classroom setting.

I recently asked Stephanie 5 questions to get to know a little bit more about her and her blogging. Here is what she had to say:

Thank you Stephanie, for the wonderful recommendation!

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67 thoughts on “You Choose, I Read – Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

  1. I literally just sat here reading your review with a HUGE smile on my face! I was waiting for your thoughts on the Bear & I’m so friggin happy you LOVED it so! *happy dance* immersive is RIGHT! that book sucks you in & when you read the last sentence I swear it feels like you’re waking up from a daze lol. I cannot wait for the sequel to see what Vasya has been up to, she is my top heroine of 2017 & it would take a lot to knock her off that throne I’ve made for her haha! Great pick Stephanie & thank you for sharing something personal, second chances in life are sometimes just what we need 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this review! I tried getting it when it was on NetGalley but was turned down which I did have a sulk about! I will definitely pop it on my wish list to pick up! As for Stephanie I’ve not checked out her blog but seriously so much in common we must be long lost twins! I’m definitely paying her a visit! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely post!! I loved learning about Stephanie!! Sharing is so important but its so hard to do and you were really brave. Danielle I was so happy to hear you loved this book! It’s definitely on my TBR as I too wanted to read about Russian folklore… I love that we learn about each Slavic spirit!! Best for 2017 is such a big deal!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m the rare one who was disappointed in this book. I enjoyed the fairy tale part. There were too many names for the same people, IIRC I think the religious part was a little much, and too YA for me. BUT I think she’s a decent writer and would read the next in the series but I would get it from the library.

    welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw that is too bad Karen. I think that I enjoyed the religion aspect so much because it played into the culture and folklore so well. I do understand about the understand about the names. Although I think that is also a part of the culture from what I am seeing? Not a hundred percent sure on that. Still a lot for me to learn 🙂


      1. I wanted more of the folklore/fairy tale. I don’t care for the Christianity (or other) suppressing local religion plot device. Way too much time in Konstantin’s head for me.

        I think the nicknames weren’t obvious that they were the same person or wasn’t consistent with them. Or I just didn’t keep track of the nicknames well enough lol

        I’m glad it’s a great read for you! Finding great reads is awesome 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I started reading this the other day! I haven’t gotten very far, as I’m trying to finish a library book before it’s due back, but I am looking forward to finishing it! The wintry setting is just right for the hot days we’ve been having.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cool review, read lots of great reviews for the book, seems to be loved by most. Definitely sounds interesting and including Russian mythology/folklore too which is not something that you see very often.

    Really cool idea to feature the blogger who’s book got chosen. Stephy sure shared and no, we don’t pick food out of the trash! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks Drew 🙂 The author really presented the folklore in understandable yet rich manner. It was easy to lose myself in this one. The sort of rare story telling that just pulls you right in and you sort of forget about everything else. I plan to feature each blogger or entrant that is selected 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My Twin Pea, you blew me away with this magical review! Retellings are not my thing, but you made me want to read this so badly! I must admit I know nothing of Russian folklore, so it’s even crazier than you managed to catch my attention!
    Also, thank you Stephanie for sharing with us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Twin Pea ❤ I knew nothing of Russian Folklore until Vassa in the Night last year. A book I loved, that many did not connect with. It prompted me to begin exploring more. And I have not been disappointed. I will now easily pick up anything pertaining to the folklore or fairy tales of Russia 🙂


  8. Nice Review! I love reading fairy tale retellings! I already have this in my tbr and I’m so glad you loved it! I’ve read another book with russian folkare retelling titled Hunted. It was written by Meagan Spooner and it’s a wonderful mix of beauty and beast fairytale and russian fairytale Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf. The Bear and the Nightingale sounds very intriguing! I can’t wait to check it out! 🙂
    Great Post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. How great that you loved your first “You choose…” book so much! Here’s hoping it’s the first of many. 😀 I love the idea of you introducing the person who made the recommendation too – a lovely touch!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m so happy the first book of your You Choose, I read feature was a great read 😀 I can always trust you when it comes to book (and tea) recommendations so I will definitely be checking this out. Like you, I don’t know too much about Russian folklore so I’m feeling quite intrigued to learn more, especially since Vasilisa isn’t the stereotypical damsel in distress found in fairy tales like Snow White. Yay for strong female protagonists! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vasilisa is a definite force to be reckoned with! I adore her. Did you read Vassa in the Night? I know so many did not like it, but it is a true favorite of mine. Very odd, but so fun. Although, there is not quite as much folklore involved it seemed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t read that, no. I do like odd, fun books, though 🙂 They can inject a breath of fresh air into your reading and allow for some real escapism ❤ Will most definitely check that out too 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Ha! Fabulous… I was hoping you were going to love this book so that I could be certain to definitely choose to read it myself!
    I grew up with Russian fairy tales and cartoons and the mention of forest and house spirits just got my mind flooded with memories of tales… so cool. I’ll defo have to read this book. Thank you for the brilliant review and for Teach sharing her story with us! You are two wonderful ladies and I’m so glad I know you both! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Liz! ❤ It was definitely an excellent start to this feature. Since you are familiar with Russian fairy tales, I would really love to hear your personal thoughts on this in comparison to my own. I only started exploring the folklore this last year. But I am hooked! 😊


  12. Beautiful review, Danielle! This sounds like a flawless retelling. I like that it focuses on Russian folklore/mythos. It’s definitely not something I see often or.. even know much about. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this title whenever I go hunting for cheap books. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I know I told you I loved the concept for this feature, but now after seeing it all put together, I LOVE it even more! Such a fantastic idea Danielle. If TB&TN wasn’t already on my TBR, it definitely would have been after reading your review. It made me even more excited to pick it up. I also really enjoyed getting to know Stephanie more! I really loved that she shared her journey with us. Kudos to her for all that she has overcome in her life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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