The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
21
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"A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern'sThe 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 marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles nearer, 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. Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale "An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale. A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic."--Robin Hobb, bestselling author of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy "A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up."--Naomi Novik, bestselling author of Uprooted"--
"In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay"--
Published: New York :, Del Rey,, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101885932
1101885939
Branch Call Number: F ARD
Characteristics: 322 pages ;,25 cm

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Miranda_Ericsson Nov 20, 2017

One of the best books I've ever read. I finished the final paragraph with happy tears in my eyes, and I feel wildly energized and happy. This is one of those books that I will treasure and read over and over, a gift. I loved the magic and folk lore, and I felt like I was pulled into the setting in Northern Rus. And the heroine! Spirited, smart, dedicated to her family. She had the sight, and cared for the spirits of the house and the forest. Brave, fierce, and determined to live a life of her choice instead of choosing either marriage or a convent as a well born lady of the time "should." I really, really loved reading the story and traveling to that time and place, I believed the magic. The climax made me grip the edges of the book in suspense, and I wanted to clap at the end.

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cbailey001
Nov 14, 2017

Hard to get into but once there a wonderful fairytale in the Grimm Brother's tradition

LPL_KimberlyL Nov 02, 2017

A gorgeously re-imagined medieval Russia is the setting of this rich fantasy novel, in which "demons" are just funny little creatures that live in the stove in order to protect the home, and fairy tales are full of life and not just part of people's imaginations. Katherine Arden's writing is SUPERB. All of the characters are fully fleshed out- even the villainous step mother has her own voice, and one that would be hard not to sympathize with. All-in-all one of the best books I have read this year!

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.

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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.

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