Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
the bear and the nightingale (Katherine Arden)
Title: the bear and the nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardcover/e-book)
So me crew had been adding this novel left and right to their ports for plunder lists . . . know as tbr to ye landlubbers. So I read the blurb. It is a Russian fairy tale retelling set in the middle ages which appealed to me. Plus it had a beautiful cover:
This book was savoury and a delight. I was instantly entranced by the scene of the household of Pyotr Vladimirovich gathered around the hearth listening to a story. This story within a story set up the novel perfectly. It only got better from there.
I fell in love with the main character, Vasya. She is strong, brave, loving, and unique. Her relationships with her family members were absolutely wonderful to read about. I particularly liked her relationship with her brother Alyosha. It felt so refreshing to read about families that cared and loved one another especially when life’s conditions were so very hard.
The juxtaposition of Christianity and pagan beliefs in this book were fascinating. I loved that people could practice both because Christianity was for the afterlife and pagan beliefs were to survive the harsh realities of day-to-day living. The Rus’ vazila and the use of horses in the story especially tickled me fancy.
The author’s writing was rich and beautiful, making me want to delve into and discover the story. I was transported into another space and time where the blending of myth and village life seemed real, possible, and achingly beautiful in its own way.
Words fail me really, so check out me other crew members reviews where they describe the feel of this novel better than I ever could:
Side note: This was the author’s debut novel and apparently is the first in a trilogy? It ended as though a standalone so I am interested to see where the next book will go.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Random House!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
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.
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