Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Type: YA Fantasy
Length: 368 pages
Published by: Del Ray
Pub date: Jan 10, 2017
Source: Fun story: I thought I had this one on my Kindle, so I requested it’s sequel from Netgalley. When my request was accepted, I thought, “Great, better start reading, then.” ONLY I DIDN’T ACTUALLY HAVE IT ON MY KINDLE! So, I kind of panic-bought a copy from Barnes and Noble, even thought the sequel doesn’t come out till December.
My Rating: ★★★★★
The short version: This story is original, lyrical, and darkly enchanting. I devoured this book in one sitting!
The long version: Usually, I’m not one for fantasy with slow, gradual development, but this book is stunning!
The story follows Vasilisa (Vasya) Petrovna, a girl we watch grow into herself in a medieval Russian setting. Her mother dies giving birth to her, and from that moment on, Vasya is completely untamable. The beginning of this book is a little slow (in the best possible way) as we watch Vasya grow from a young girl into a young woman, realizing the role she is expected to play and wanting absolutely nothing to do with it. But when she gets her wish and has to deal with things she never expected to see, she wonders if she’s really up to the task.
I don’t want anyone to be turned off when I say it’s sometimes a little slow, because, even in its calmest moments, this story is still captivating!
A big part of the reason is the incredible setting. Arden paints a vivid Russian landscape that makes you want to reach for a blanket and tea, while also wanting to throw on a pair of snowshoes and explore. Even when the book slows down, the scenery was so vivid and real, I couldn’t help but read on!
“In the north, the wind had teeth that bit after sunset, even in summer.”
It also helps that I was SUPER attached to our protagonist, Vasya. She’s fiery, stubborn, and brave, but ultimately kind-hearted. While she may not know what she’s looking for in life, she knows exactly what she doesn’t want, and isn’t afraid to say so. She has a great relationship with her family, and, throughout the book, there’s a sense that she isn’t just a young woman looking for her place in the world, but that she is quite literally a force of nature. When all is said and done, Vasya is a character you can root for from page one.
“I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”
Perhaps the story’s greatest asset is Arden’s ability to draw out suspense and anticipation. Even when everyone is home, warm, and well-fed, and it seems like little is going on, she is still able to make you sit on the edge of your seat because you know that, soon, something is going to happen, and when it does, all hell will break loose.
“Nay, it is the coming storm. The first sign is fear. The second is always fire. Your people are afraid, and now the fires burn.”
All in all, this was one of those stories that I could not read fast enough, but also one that I never wanted to end! I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s more than earned its place on my “favorites” bookshelf, and I absolutely cannot wait for Book 2!
Thanks for reading!
Have you read this book yet? If you have, what did you think? If not, do you plan on reading it? Let me know in the comments below!