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

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

Synopsis:

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.


my-thought

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

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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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