An Enchanting and Immersive Fairy Tale Retelling // REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and The Nightingale (Winternight #1)
Author: Katherine Arden
Publication Date: January 12th 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books (Penguin Random House)
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1 on 3 of the Winternight Trilogy
I Got A Copy Through: Penguin India (THANK YOU!)
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Blurb Description: 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.
“I am only a story, Vasya.”

I had heard GREAT things about this book before I dove in. Some of my favourite humans in the book world told me that it was intriguing, magical and that it would suck me in and when I finally picked it up, I was SO EXCITED for all the wonder it would hold.

The Bear and the Nightingale is an enchanting and spell binding Russian fairy tale retelling with a witty, courageous protagonist, magic, family and death and I LOVED IT.

My only problem with this book was the pace for three-quarters of it – The Bear and the Nightingale was JUST SO SLOW. Especially during the middle parts when the novelty of the world wore off, I feel like the book itself had stagnated, with nothing at ALL happening. I’ll go into it in more detail below.
Image result for the bear and the nightingale quotes

1.       Katherine Arden’s writing was SPECTACULAR throughout the course of the book. I was in awe of her ability to bring Russia, winter and magic come to life through her ever changing viewpoints. It was lush, enchanting writing and this story wouldn’t have worked without it.

2.       I fell in love with Vasilisa Petrovna and her courage, her need to be independent and her fiery loyalty. She knew what was right and fought for it and she had such a big heart. It’s so difficult to explain her as a character because she feels real to me and I can’t do her justice. She was a genuine, headstrong girl who believed in herself and in the simple magic all around her.

3.       The pace of this book for the first three quarters was SO SLOW. I usually understand why the beginnings of books are so slow but when everything happened with Father Konstantin, his icons, and Vasilisa’s stepmother, I still enjoyed the book as a whole, but I really had to push through to reach the end. I wish all the events happened at a better pace than they did because then this book would have been a definite five star.

4.       LET’S JUST TAKE A MOMENT TO APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY THAT IS THE COVER OF THIS BOOK. I’ve been reading it for days and I’ve haamd it for months and I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH IT.

 “Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.” 

5.       I loved Vasya’s family, especially Alyosha. I feel like we didn’t get to see enough of her other siblings – Kolya, Olga, Sasha and her half-sister, Irina – but I did love the understated bond between all of them. I loved Alyosha and his silent protectiveness about his sister most of all.

6.       The last hundred or so pages of this book (from the start of part three, really) were ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. I adored where the story progressed, the fairy-tale brothers that were really introduced and everything else about it. It was delightfully charming and I loved it.
It did take me more than my usual time to get through this book, not because I didn’t love it but because it was a slow paced book.

The Bear and the Nightingale was a fascinating, immersive book that really transports you into the world Katherine Arden has created and keeps you entranced. 4 stars. 
Katherine Arden
Born in Texas, Katherine attended Middlebury College, where she studied French and Russian literature. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, and is fluent in both French and Russian. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she spent time guiding horse trips while writing The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.

What are some of your FAVOURITE Fairy Tale Retellings?
Have you read The Bear and The Nightingale and it's sequel? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEM?
I'd absolutely love to hear from you <3!

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