The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey on January 10th 2017
Pages: 336
ISBN: 1101885939
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Received from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was inspired by Russian Fairy Tales.

Vasya grows up wild after her Mother dies in childbirth. Her Mother had become skinny and weak prior to her birth but wanted a child ” a daughter” like her grandmother. A child with “gifts”. Unfortunately her Mother does not survive her birth and Vasya grows up believing she killed her Mother and that she is not attractive or beguiling as her sister. She also sees “creatures” that no one else can see and she has a connection to the horses in the stables. Her father and older siblings can’t seem to tame her. It is suggested that her father take a second wife in hopes that a “new” mother will help tame this wild nature loving child. Her step Mother is not an evil stepmother but a young woman herself who never wanted to marry. She had hoped to spend her life in a covenant. She feared the “house-spirits” that she saw and hoped to stop her step daughter from seeing them.

This is the ultimate fail as her father’s second wife seems to see the same “demons” that Vasya does. To make things more interesting, her father is approached by a stranger in the forest with piercing eyes who has an amulet for the young girl. Her father is instructed to give the necklace to his daughter and that she must always have it on her. Vasya’s nurse maid ultimately keeps the amulet and only gives it to Vasya when she feels she is ready to take possession of it. Meanwhile a force, a bear, if you will, has awoken in the forest and is threatening to destroy them all.

At first I was not sure how I felt about this book. I kept starting it and then putting it down and opting to read other books. Then finally I thought “this is enough already.” This book has been compared to Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I really enjoyed that book and decided to give this book the old college try.

Why was it so hard to get into? Initially because I needed to get used to a book with so many unusual names. This may sound trite but it is true. Also, I have been reading a lot of mysteries lately and was in the groove of reading them. But when I sat down and gave this book the old college try, I found that it slowly creeps up on you much like the “spirits” and “demons” of this book. This fairy tale about/within a fairy tale set in a far away Russian kingdom slowly came to life and slowly sucked me in. I don’t even know how I would categorize this book. What I will say is that my description does not do it justice. This book had a lot of atmosphere and one could feel the cold and mounting dread as the bear awakens. The imagery is amazing and I could literally “see” this book unfolding before me. There is not a HUGE amount of action in this book. It really does build, giving the reader the “chills” as the suspense builds to the books finale. What seemed like a hard book to get into turned into a hard book to put down.

An interesting book for lovers of fairy tales, folklore, or fantasy-type books.


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