TITLE: The Bear & The Nightingale
AUTHOR: Katherine Arden
SERIES: The Winternight Trilogy (#1)
PUBLISHER: Del Rey
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Adult, Retelling
RATING: 5/5 Stars
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.
But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods...
What I Liked:
- The characters were really well constructed. The MC was obviously Vasya who was kind, independent and a pretty badass heroine, but other characters were given a turn of revealing backstory and complex character qualities too. Anna Ivanovna was a prime example of this, as she would have only been considered a wicked step-mother archetype if she had not been given a couple of POV chapters towards the beginning of the story. I also loved some of the mythical characters, especially Morozko, the Rusalka and the Domovoi because they were given such interesting personalities.
- Speaking of the magic and mythical lore, there was so much of this in 'The Bear & The Nightingale'. I'm not overly familiar with Russia's culture and Slavic mythology: the extent of my knowledge is having heard of Baba Yaga and barely knowing what a Rusalka is. So, it was so much fun to learn new things about another country's stories and legends. It was done in such an enchanting and magical way too, Arden really does write beautifully and has a knack for both storytelling and building a rich world.
What I Disliked:
- Towards the end, I did feel like the pacing became a little too fast in that it felt rushed in some areas. So many events happened at once that it was a little hard to process everything after such a slow build over a number of years. This was really only a minor quibble however, because there was just so much good in this story!
This book was such a great read, and gave me all the feels. There was some really interesting character work that played to archetypes and yet felt fresh, and I adored the visual imagery and rich world. Arden deserves all the credit for this debut and I'm seriously so happy to find out that Arden is creating a three part series set in this world because there were a few unresolved plot-lines that I'd like to find out the conclusion of!