BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Publication: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 370

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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 was so very excited when my other book club had chosen this as an option for my November book club.  I had heard of this book when it was first released and had really wanted to read it but just never got around to it.  I had even sent it to my sister who is Russian knowing that she would probably enjoy it.  I was even more excited when they voted and it was the book that was picked. 

First off I went into this book looking for a fairy-tale.  I wasn’t looking for a novel that made sense.  I knew that it would be filled with things that would be far fetched.  Once you get in that mindset, let this book take you away on a fantastical journey.  I immediately fell in love with Vasya and her ability to see things that weren’t really there.  The “demons” as I nick named them.  The one that lives in the house, the horse barn, and the river.  There are too many to name.  She feeds each and one of them as best she can.  Her father gets remarried at some stage and the new step-mother does not like her.  Tries to marry her off at one stage and send her to a convent at another.  These events cause Vasya to run away and is rescused by the Morozko– the Russian equivalant of Jack Frost. 

This story was amazing.  I couldn’t put it down and spent one too many sleepless nights reading it.  I think I finished it in about 4 days.  The story swept me away.  I wanted to find out what happened to Vasya.  I was slightly annoyed by the various stories of Vasya’s siblings but knowing when I read the book there were two more books after this one, I figured that we would once again touch on them at some point.  I was fascinated how the monk was portrayed in the book.  A very religious man who was easily swayed by the demon that lived in the corner of his home. He was holy and painted icons and was praised as the best painter around but was easily swayed by just one little voice.   I have sent several of my family members the next two books as ideas to get me for Christmas.  I can’t wait to read the next book!!


Pick up your copy of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and also check your local bookstores. Also make sure to add it to your To Reads pile on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are finished.

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