Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is an enchanting book with its roots in Russian folklore and fairy tales.

Vasilisa Petrovna, with the nickname Vasya, is our heroine. The tale starts out while she is very young and listening to tales at the hearth from her nurse. One of her favorites to hear stories about is Morozko, the Frost.

After a time, as she grows, someone convinces her father it would be a good thing if she had a mother figure in the home other than her nurse. Her father marries a woman from Moscovy who frankly would rather have been a nun.

Her stepmother is adamant that the old guardians of the hearth and other house spirits should no longer be honored and all faith given to the Christian God. Her father, Pyotr, goes along with the stepmother. Vasya feels that this is wrong and that there will be far reaching consequences for their denial. Secretly she continues to honor the house spirits and asks for their protection for the people. As the story progresses, Vasya's stepmother decides that Vasya must either be married off or sent to a convent.

As the winter worsens, Vasya finds herself in a place where she will have to make a choice. She will have to defy the people she loves if she is to save them from something out of one of her nurse's most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale is well written. If you love fairy tales and folktales, you will love this book. It captures the early days of Christianity in Russia where the people continued to honor the house spirits side by side with the new God, giving each his due. An interview with the author on Unbound Worlds indicates that she drew on both the history and the folklore of old Russia in her writing.

I loved the way I felt pulled into the setting and among the characters. I especially became fond of Vasilisa and her family. The stepmother, not so much, although I did feel kind of sorry for her. Morozko is an interesting character and, according to Katherine Arden, will appear in future books in what is planned to be a trilogy at the moment.

The Bear and the Nightingale was released January 10, 2017 from Del Rey. I gave it 5 stars. It's a great debut by the author. It reads like a fairy tale or folktale. And it's quite entertaining. I really enjoyed it. I can't wait to read the next book.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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