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The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale
Katherine Arden
Del Rey, 2017
Source: E-Galley, Library
Audience: Adults, Older Teens

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 was super excited to see this fairy tale for adults. I couldn’t wait to read it, but life happened and I only just got to it. The Bear and the Nightingale was incredibly well-written, but the language flowed in such a way that I found myself distracted. A ton of action would happen, and I would have to go back and re-read to see what I missed. Additionally, I think this writing style contributed to characters that seemed thin. I think they could have been developed more. Also, the story started before the main character was a baby. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had the beginning of Vasilisa’s life been summarized, as opposed to being told in detail. I think that the book lost some of its magic because of that. Once The Bear and the Nightingale actually got to the fairy tale part of the story, I loved it! It just took too long to get there.

When I added Arden’s book to my Goodreads list, I saw that there is going to be a sequel. I don’t think it needs a sequel! The whole point of a fairy tale is that the characters live happily ever after and that’s all you need to know. I was really thinking this would be a standalone going into it, but I might give the sequel a try, out of curiosity.