Thursday, March 29, 2018

[Book Review] The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

Book Review of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden was such a fun and beautifully written tale filled to the brim with magic, family, monsters, and darkness.

When I saw this was one of our book club options, I voted for it immediately. I had heard such great things about it! So when it won the overall vote for March, I went out and bought a copy immediately.

This book did not disappoint. In fact, I loved it so much that the minute I finished reading it, I jumped on my computer and ordered the second book and preordered the third! I cannot wait to read them both to see what happens next!

Let's dive in!

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden


Synopsis:
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.



My thoughts: 
Right away I have to admit that it took me awhile to get really invested in the story. But phew... once I hit page 85, I was hooked! Up until that point, it seemed like there was just too much going on; there were so many characters that had two, three, or four names who were all doing different things as the years passed... So I found it a bit difficult to keep up. But after page 85, I struggled to put the book down!

There was a great focus on Russian mythology, a topic that I don't know very well. But this definitely got me interested! I cannot wait to read more in this area. The tales that were told within this novel were so interesting and dark! And we all know I'm a sucker for the darker tales!

The main focuses were on the story of Vasilisa the Beautiful, which I had only heard of once before, and Father Frost (Morocco), which I hadn't heard about at all. In this novel, we begin with a character named Dunya telling the tale of Father Frost to the family. This story really sets the stage wonderfully! If the book hadn't started with a tale with magical elements, I don't think I would have gotten on board with the plot as quickly. But as it was, when the magical things began to be more prominent, I was so excited to learn more!

I loved the focus on family and loyalty. But of course, with most fantasy stories, it was also bittersweet... but no spoilers here!

I really enjoyed the main character, Vasya. Right from her childhood, I found myself most interested in her storyline so I was thrilled to see that the focus really shifts to her later on. She was wonderfully unique in her world; tomboyish, outspoken, unyielding, brave, and a bit wild. Of course that didn't sit well with the local townsfolk, so there was a bit of unease there as well.

And the book design... I mean, look at that cover!! The script on the spine under the dust jacket was also lovely!

There are so many other things that I would love to discuss here, but I don't want to spoil the magic!


My favorite passages:
When the light struck her black hair it did not gleam bronze as Marina's had, but dark red, like garnets caught in the silky strands.

Fall came in a burst of glory that quickly faded to gray.


My final thoughts:
If you're a fan of tales that take an old tale and give it an awesome spin, I highly recommend this one!   Even though I was a bit lost at the beginning, I'm so very excited to re-read it. I'm sure the first 84 pages will make much more sense to me now that I have all the characters down!

Of course because this story is a play on Vasilisa the Beautiful, I couldn't help but think about Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. Both stories are incredibly interesting, and VERY different, so I would highly recommend checking them both out!



Thanks for reading! 
Have you read this one yet? If so, what did you think? If you haven't, but are a fan of Russian tales, which of those is your favorite? I'd love to learn more!

34 comments:

  1. Honestly, it sounds amazing. I have seen so much buzz for this book!
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk

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  2. I've only heard good things about this book! I'm glad you loved it so much! I love that it delivered on the "dark" fairy tale aspect; lots of books seem to promise that but don't quite get there.

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    1. I agree! This one was so refreshing!

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  3. This book has been getting so much hype. I’m glad you liked it. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to read it soon. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Definitely! I hope you love it as much as I did!

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. I own the first and now must make tome to read them all!

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    1. :-D I can't wait to read your reviews!!

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  5. It sounds like a great book. The cover draws you in.

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  6. Great book club choice! You're going to love the sequel.

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  7. I’ve wondered about this one. That slow beginning scares me but I’ll remember it’s worth it.

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    1. Definitely! I think if I had written down names to keep them all straight, that I would have had better luck with the beginning. There were just so many names!!

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  8. I love when old tales are reworked into new ones. Your review is great, Erica!

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  9. Sounds like a good read. I've heard mainly positive things about about it. I'm glad to know that while it might be slow at first, it DOES pick up.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. :-D If you pick it up, I'd love to see your review!!

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  10. I recently saw it at the bookstore and I was wondering whether to buy it or not 😁 Nice review!

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    1. :-D I definitely recommend it if you see it again! I loved it so much!

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  11. I went to an author signing for Girl in the Tower around the time it came out, but I still haven't been able to read this first book yet! You've gotten me terribly excited for when I finally do (I just ordered a hardcover the other day, so: soon!). I don't know much about Russian folklore but I did really enjoy Deathless, so I'm ready to see another take on some classic stories :)

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    1. AH! That's awesome! I hope you love it as much as I did!! Just keep in mind the first part is a bit confusing and jumpy. But it sets the tone wonderfully!! Definitely keep a list of names and nicknames to keep everyone straight!

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  12. I neeeeeeeed to read this soon. I have been eyeing it for way too long. Now that I know you loved it so much I am definitely bumping it up on my TBR. <3

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    1. Definitely!! I think you'll love it!

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  13. Yay, this is one of my all-time favorite series so I'm thrilled to see you enjoyed it as well. The second book is equally amazing too and I'm dying to get my hands on the final book in the trilogy.

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  14. It goes to show the power of a good first book! I recently did this with The Raven Boys. I finished book one and then ordered and bought them all. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series too x

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    1. Right?! Ah, I still need to read that one!!

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  15. This sounds lovely! I don't know anything about Russian mythology, so that would be interesting, and I can forgive a rocky start if the book gets better. That is definitely a gorgeous cover!

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  16. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. The writing was so good and I too love the darker tales. One good thing about waiting so long to pick this one up is that the sequel is already out. Enjoyed your review!

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    1. Definitely! I have my copy of book two sitting on my kitchen table! I can't wait to dive in :)

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  17. Ooh, that's fun that you got to read this for a book club! I've read this one and the sequel. I think the second one has an even more gorgeous cover, somehow!! :P

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    1. I'm so thankful it was our club pick!! It's definitely a book that needs to be discussed! :) And oh my gosh, I agree! I have the second book sitting right in front of me as we speak! It's sunning!!

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