Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Read for: Recent Purchase (2017)/ Mount TBR (2018) and look at that cover!

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 Review: So this was a struggle for me to get through, nearly a full month to read, but in the end it was totally worth pushing through to the end. I think the hardest part for me was the terminology used to refer to each character, sometimes different names were used and then also terms of endearment (that I wasn't aware of) but at the end I discovered a glossary to clear up those issues (I have a whole other argument about putting important info like that at the back of the book where you don't find it until you stumble your way through). It was also very slow to develop, we are introduced, in detail, to each party to the story and the settings before everything is finally put together. I didn't really get into it until well over half way through the book. With that said by the end I was rather attached to Vasilisa and was rooting for her, but I could also see the other side of every disagreement throughout the story. I absolutely adored all the little spirits and the role they play and would love to see even more of them. I must also add that this is a must read in the winter, it was so atmospheric, the snow and chill outside only lent to drawing you into the story. Once I finished with this one, I immediately picked up Girl in the Tower and am enjoying that one much more.

My Rating: This is a tough one to rate because if I went by my feeling at the end it would rate very high but for a less than 400 page book to take me more than a month to read I just can't justify that; so I am having to give it a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag, right in the middle.

Have you read this one? What did you think of it? If not, do you read any Eastern Folk Lore/ Retellings?


  1. I'm impressed that you stuck with this one. The cover looks enchanting.

    1. It was really tough to stay focused on it (sadly I have lost focus on Girl in the Tower now).

  2. I’m not a fan of too much backstory and minute details about each and every character in a book so I’m not sure I would have stuck with this one. I’m glad you did and that it didn’t disappoint. And I’m glad the second book is going better.

    1. This definitely has a lot of minute and mundane details as well as a lot of imagery that may not have been needed, though it does match the tone of the story. It was definitely a story for someone who has the time to sit and savor it.