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Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Page Count: 336
Published by: Del Rey Books
Date Released: January 17, 2017
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Synopsis

Vasilisa and her siblings love stories. Fairy tales of winter demons, house spirits, and forest nymphs. They are as real to her world as the cold, Russian landscape she inhabits and are told not just to pass the cold, winter nights but to honour the spirits.

When her father remarries a few years after her mother’s passing, her new stepmother forbids the mention and honouring of these spirits. Crops start to fail. Animals die. The dead awaken. The fairytales of her youth are coming alive and she will have to defy the constricting rules of her gender and call upon her secret, dangerous gifts in order to save those she loves.

Discussion

Let’s Talk Characters & World and Fairytales and Reading Too Much:

Ah, this book! This world! These characters!

Sometimes I worry I read too much. That all the stories are sounding too similar, the plots too thin, the characters just flat … and I question, is it me? Am I reading too much??

And then, you pick up a book like this and your love of story is renewed, because The Bear and the Nightingale is unlike anything I’ve read. This magical, creepy, evil, ancient, cold Russian landscape is so real and so vivid it truly took over my imagination.

Vasilisa (Vasya) wasn’t perfect. I loved her imperfection. I loved her intelligence and her fierceness and her bravery … she reminded me so much of Merida, which I guess is the point, this is, after all, a fairytale. A creepy, violent fairytale. It is so full of the stereotypical fairytale elements – evil Stepmother and all – but I found myself so wrapped up in the story that I would forget this. While having stereotypical fairytale elements, it never fell into stereotypes themselves.

Let’s talk pacing and misleading jacket blurbs:

Honestly the story that is blurbed on the dust jacket doesn’t really take hold until the middle of the book and typically this would have me cursing … but it is necessary here to fully build out Vasya and her world.

Was the pacing perfect? Nope. Not always. But the overwhelming, slow building urgency of this story just kept me turning those early pages needing to know what happens next.

Let’s talk fear factor:

This is scary! Like, kind of surprisingly scary! And an itty-bitty bit grotesque … like vampires and blood … and some more blood & gore. Not necessarily a content warning, I just wasn’t expecting it and it took be by surprise. But it works so well and added so much to the story and immersion in this fairytale.

Overall Thoughts:

Such an excellent, engrossing, magical fairytale of a book that is actually quite grounded by everyday realities … I’ve never read anything like it. Vasya is bound by the very real constraints of her sex and the time period she lives, while also possessing these fairytale magical abilities. It provided such an overall sense of completely believable conflict. I felt like I was simultaneously reading a book of Russian history, but within the unmistakable elements of a fairytale. So very well done and I’m excited to continue in the series.

TBR Ranking: High

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Cherylhttps://www.aotales.com
Welcome to And other tales. The little corner of the interweb where we don’t count cups of coffee, believe cancelling plans to stay home & read is just good life advice, refuse to acknowledge the calories in baked goods and will never judge you on the number of marshmallows in your hot chocolate or the size of your TBR piles. Curl up, get comfy and click through for book reviews, life chats, playlists, vegan & gluten free baking recipes, gift guides and more.
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