Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.
“A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up.”—Naomi Novik, bestselling author of Uprooted
Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.
Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village.
But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Praise for The Bear and the Nightingale
“Arden’s debut novel has the cadence of a beautiful fairy tale but is darker and more lyrical.”—The Washington Post
“Vasya [is] a clever, stalwart girl determined to forge her own path in a time when women had few choices.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Stunning . . . will enchant readers from the first page. . . . with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Utterly bewitching . . . a lush narrative . . . an immersive, earthy story of folk magic, faith, and hubris, peopled with vivid, dynamic characters, particularly clever, brave Vasya, who outsmarts men and demons alike to save her family.”—Booklist (starred review)
“An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic.”—Robin Hobb
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The Bear and the Nightingale made us feel like kids again, curled up in bed completely lost in the spell of a great story. Katherine Arden’s first novel is haunting and beautiful, full of the stuff of fairy tales. Set against harsh, wild Russian landscapes and teeming with wonderful characters, it’s got magic, menace, and all the ingredients of an unforgettable read.
Arden's debut is an earthy, beautifully written love letter to Russian folklore, with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate in 14th-century Russia. Vasilisa "Vasya" Petrovna's mother, Marina, died while giving birth to her. Her father, Pyotr Vladimirovich, loves her; he also resents her for his beloved wife's death. But Marina made Pyotr promise to take good care of Vasya, saying that she was special, and indeed she is. While her father and brothers seek marriage arrangements among royalty in Moscow, Vasya, now a teenager, refuses to be married off; instead she wanders the verdant woods of her father's rural estate, communing with spirits of home, wood, and water. When a young, arrogant priest is sent to her village, the people turn away from their old ways, and the spirits that keep them safe begin to fade. It's up to Vasya to protect them, but her father marries Anna, the daughter of Grand Prince Ivan II, who believes the wood spirits are demons and wants to kill Vasya or confine her to a convent as punishment for consorting with them. As a fierce winter storm rages, Vasya must save her family while embracing the magic that lives inside her. The stunning prose ("The blood flung itself out to Vasya's skin until she could feel every stirring in the air") forms a fully immersive, unusual, and exciting fairy tale that will enchant readers from the first page.
Creative, clever and insightful
Creative telling of the development of religion and life in Russia. I did not know northern Russia was inhabited by mostly Scandinavian descendants. I loved the interplay between old gods and the new one true god religion. I loved the story of a family and their struggles and character.
Fairytale or Fantasy
In this time of Covid this is a wonderful story for escaping the Now. Well written and told like an old fairytale for adults. I suppose for anyone who enjoys fantasy and stories of the Old Ones, but happily, not classified as Young Adult.
I will be ordering the rest of the trilogy next.
Please read if you are a fan of epics rooted in legend
This book sweeps you up and carries you into the next two.