The Bear and The Nightingale (#1) by Katerine Arden
Genres/Themes: YA, Fantasy, Historical, Fairy Tale retelling — Russian,
*I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
This is a book you will want to read in front of a crackling fire and under a soft blanket.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
I had a very difficult time reading this book. It is written very well and definitely reads like a fairy tale, but I was so bored and then… confused. I will say most of the action happens in the last 20-30% of the book. Before that feels like build up and character development — Which, yes books do build up to the climax, but the book felt like it was building up.
For all that I was bored, I cannot deny that this was written well with magic woven between the words. I definitely think other people will enjoy the history, the different fairy tales, and will be pulled into this book. All of this makes me frustrated because I could feel the pull to be dragged in and I was curious about the tale, but it just did not work on me.
As a side note, I have no idea who the Nightingale in the tile is referring to…. brother or horse… or I missed something.
Anyhow, I totally recommend this book to people who like fairy tale retellings, don’t require much action, and are interested in Russian folklore. This book is worth the read.