The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

Book - 2017 | First edition.
Average Rating:
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER * A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted , Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus , and Neil Gaiman's myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

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.

Praise for The Bear and the Nightingale

"Vasya [is] a clever, stalwart girl determined to forge her own path in a time when women had few choices." --The Christian Science Monitor

"Stunning . . . will enchant readers from the first page. . . . with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Utterly bewitching . . . a lush narrative . . . an immersive, earthy story of folk magic, faith, and hubris, peopled with vivid, dynamic characters, particularly clever, brave Vasya, who outsmarts men and demons alike to save her family." -- Booklist (starred review)

"Arden's supple, sumptuous first novel transports the reader to a version of medieval Russia where history and myth coexist." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Radiant . . . a darkly magical fairy tale for adults, [but] not just for those who love magic." --Library Journal

"An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic." --Robin Hobb

"A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up." --Naomi Novik

"Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can't wait for her next book." --Terry Brooks

" The Bear and the Nightingale is a marvelous trip into an ancient Russia where magic is a part of everyday life." --Todd McCaffrey

"Enthralling and enchanting--I literally couldn't put it down." --Tamora Pierce
Publisher: New York : Del Rey, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101885932
Branch Call Number: FIC Arden
Characteristics: 322 pages ; 25 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

Set during the deep Russian winter, this is a fairy tale full of forest spirits and real-world struggles. Compelling, original, and menacing. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “an earthy, beautifully written love letter to Russian folklore.”

Comment
VaughanPLKim Feb 09, 2017

This wonderfully written tale combines elements of magic, fantasy, and Russian folklore. Katherine Arden's description of the winter landscape is so vivid it is easy to imagine yourself in the snowy forests of medieval Russia. The pacing was slow at times but the ending is worth it. I look forwar... Read More »


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ontherideau Sep 21, 2017

A Russian fantasy featuring many threads and perspectives, conflict between good and evil with much evil coming from a religious leader and good from the suspected witch. Some readers have compared this to a dark Narnia, I often thought of Cinderella with a twist.

GCPL_Angela Aug 28, 2017

I was enthralled with the beginning of this book, and as of about halfway through it was all set to give it a five-star rating. The enchanted woods called to mind the Tom Bombadil parts of Fellowship of the Ring (which I loved) and the wintry world filled with strange creatures (some friendly, others of dubious allegiance) reminded me so much of Narnia. These were great associations for me, both nostalgic and transporting.

But the latter parts of the book veered darker, and I found the story much less gratifying as the action became increasingly grim and macabre. I understand that this is probably faithful to the spirit of true Russian folklore, but I much preferred the lighter tone of the earlier part of the novel. (I really could have done without the upyr subplot, for example, which tended to be much grislier than the other mythology. As another reviewer said, it kind of turns into "zombie horror novel," which really took me out of the story -- I almost considered not continuing once or twice, but I was so close to the end that I kept going.)

Overall, a mixed bag for me. Fantasy readers will probably enjoy it, especially those who are familiar and comfortable with darker fantasy. I imagine that "fantasy lite" readers like myself who have only experience with more mainstream fantasy selections (e.g. Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia) may feel as I did about the latter third and ending of this one.

forbesrachel Aug 19, 2017

The old beliefs and the new clash in this alluring dark fairytale. In the depths of 14th century Russia, winter can mean death, but by properly giving tribute to the household spirits, the village where Pyotr Vladimirovich and his family live, has survived in relative prosperity. Vasilisa is different from Pyotr's other children. She has a wildness to her, the sight, and an affinity for the old magic. Because of this, she catches the attention of ancient gods, both good and evil, whose power dynamic is shifting. Up until this point, Christianity has existed relatively well with the local beliefs, but when Pyotr is made to marry the god-fearing, and sight-inflicted Anna Ivanovna, who in turn turns to an ambitious priest, this balance is shattered. Only Vasilisa knows that there is a threat lurking in the woods, and she is determined to protect her home. The summary for The Bear and the Nightingale can be a bit misleading. While Vasilisa is certainly the focus of this tale, it is not only her story. The book is told in the third person, switching to different characters all the way throughout; we get to see events from multiple perspectives, and we are never left guessing at a person's motivations. Most characters are not as stereotypical as the summary makes them seem; Vasilisa's kindly and wise nursemaid makes a huge mistake, and the "evil" stepmother is not evil, but broken. This speaks to Arden's ability to take folktale staples, and spin them into something fresh. Her world has a sinister underpinning, but the strength and love that the spirits and people have breathes hope into it. The Bear and the Nightingale comes to a satisfying conclusion, and yet this is clearly only the beginning of Vasilisa's story. Without any chains to shackle her, it will be interesting to see where she will go, and how she will grow from all the first experiences that await her.

c
cottageunderh
Aug 14, 2017

I loved this book! While it was a little slow in the beginning, I really enjoyed the story arc. This is set in Russia and the fairy tales and the mystical beasties were great to read. Plus I really connected to the message of the book: Vasya's determination to decide her own path in life, breaking away from the traditional marriage and children route. And you know, bears, nightingales, and upyrs equals awesomeness.

Jcheng1234 Jul 25, 2017

A beautiful fairy tale of magic and spirits. The Russian names, folklore and history are very interesting. I think the main character is very brave. Her determination to protect her family and loved ones is admirable. The priest’s disillusion is a good warning for us to differentiate good from evil. I finished the book in one day and I enjoyed it very much.

p
PRMorris
Jun 24, 2017

A beautifully written fairy tale that reminded me of the original, terrifying Grimm tales. It made me look up some Russian folklore. I look forward to the next one!

AL_JANE Jun 12, 2017

What a deliciously dark and mysterious novel! It read like a Grimm's fairy tale for adults. Filled with Russian folklore and superstitions, it's sure to delight those longing for a story.

b
booksmile
Apr 23, 2017

I couldn't make it past the crying, unwilling bride that just wanted to go into a convent...

j
julia_sedai
Mar 17, 2017

I really enjoyed this fairy tale. I was so relieved and happy to read a fantasy book that for once didn't have any sex and barely even any romance, which was refreshing. I also love all of the Russian names and folktales. I think the author did a fantastic job for her debut novel and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books. If you like fairy tales and/or Russia during the medieval times, this book is for you!

k
kkirby221
Mar 16, 2017

Enjoyed the book. Made me realize how little of Russian folklore and history I know. It was a fast read. I would recommend this book.

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