The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1)

Katherine Arden

YA Historical Mythology

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Fantasy (2017)Nominee for Best Debut Goodreads Author (2017)

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 is a magical debut novel from a gifted and gorgeous voice. It spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) We enter a land rich in mystery and death with a blend of fantasy and Russian mythology. The author’s descriptions paint a vivid picture of the cold atmosphere, making it the perfect read for a cozy winter evening snuggled by the fire.

One strength of the book is the author’s adeptness at detailed descriptions. Every aspect of the world feels richly drawn and atmospheric. While the Russian mythology adds a layer of depth to the story, the folklore builds the world that is so easy to picture.

Despite the well-done descriptions and world-building, I found myself struggling to connect with the characters. This made it difficult to become fully invested in the journey, bringing in a sense of detachment. The story also felt drawn out at times which added to my disconnect.

This is a beautifully written tale that transports readers to a world of magic and mystery. While the descriptions are well done and the Russian mythology adds depth to the story, the lack of interest in the characters and slow pacing may deter some readers from fully enjoying the novel. Nonetheless, for those seeking a atmospheric read with a touch of fantasy, this offers an enchanting journey.

AUDIO REVIEW: Kathleen Gati had a very even voice that made the flow very precise. I definitely would have preferred more inflection in her voice but she made the story flow easily.

General content summary: little to no language, pregnancy and talk of abortion, parental death (from giving birth), cut with a knife (blood), intimacy (no details), arranged marriage, child disownment, talk of religious demons, God, child physical abuse (few details, blood), child death (cold weather, grief, multiple), child death (cold weather, wolves), hunting (killing, blood), many animals found mutilated (few details), drinking blood (vampire), injuries from a bear (death).

Thank you to Penguin Random House Audio for the copy!

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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