4 out of 5 stars.
I recently finished a buddy-read with Jay from this-is-my-truth-now of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It was an interesting book and it was great to be reading it at the same time as someone else so we could talk about it as we were reading it!
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 really enjoyed this book. I’m a fan of folklore in general and Russian folklore specifically, so that part appealed to me as well as the characters and plot line itself.
Our characters are wonderful. They’re well-rounded, complex, and many of them experience a great deal of personal growth during the book (some due to going from a child to an adult and some due to circumstances). There is the potential for some confusion amongst the characters due to the use of nicknames rather than their given names at times. Since I was already familiar with Russian folklore and Russian tales, I was used to this and it didn’t bother me, but I can see how it’d be confusing for someone who was not familiar with this particular quirk of Russian tales.
The plot line moved along at a fast pace, but not so fast that you couldn’t keep up with it. There were lots of twists in the plot, so just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, the author switched it up some more. There is one twist towards the end of the book that I really could have done with out due to personal reading preferences (if you’ve read the book and know me at all, you’ll know what I mean – if you haven’t read the book yet, I don’t want to give anything away).
It’s a really good book and I recommend it highly. I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, The Girl in the Tower, which comes out this fall and which I’ve already scored an ARC through Netgalley. I can’t wait to read it!
Have you read it yet? What did you think? I’d love to start some discussion on it. 🙂