by Katherine Arden
Publisher: Random House UK, Ebury Publishing
A young woman's family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain,intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, willfull girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay. Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core,
The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.
Rating: 4/5 stars
I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.
If you only read a YA fantasy book in 2017 make it The Bear and the Nightingale. Why? Because this book has it all; for a start it’s a fairytale retelling (which gives it bonus points), it’s a Russian fairytale, it involves a “war” between church and pagan beliefs (triple points) and it’s whimsicaly written.
So if this has captivated you already I am sure you will like Vasya’s story. A brief on-line search will tell you that the fairytale in question is commonly known as Vasilia the brave (or beautiful it depends) and that Catherynne M.Valente has already re-told it in her book Deathless (which is in my to-read pile). So when I first requested it I was unsure if I had made the right decision, I have read Valente’s work before and though that it might have been a better idea to just read her retelling. However I also wanted to try new authors and had read very good reviews of The Bear and the Nightingale so I though it was worth the risk.
I have to say that I was lucky and this book was so worth the risk. Wonderfully written and full of promise this is one of the few books I have ever read that lives up to expectation. As we follow Vasya from her birth to her adventurous teenage years we create a very close relationship with her that keeps the readers engaged in the story. Even though sometimes it seems like a slow burn I think the long look at Vasya’s formative years actually helps us understand better where she comes from and why she does/ reacts the way she does.
As I had never read the original fairytale I had no idea where the story was going or who the characters were. The author also choose to leave Russian words for the entities and places which helps set the mood and it was easy to find myself in the northern Russian forest. I think it also helped that I started to the read the book as the seasons where changing and autumn weather was becoming winter weather as the chill that was felt really help set the mood.
I used to read the book before going to bed but after part 3 I had to stop doing it as I was getting scared. The book takes a turn and becomes slightly darker with things roaming in the night and whispering in the shadows. Strange knocks on doors and blood splattered in the white snow. I have to admit I was not ready for it but it kept me engaged (even if with all my lights on).
The Bear and the Nightingale leaves the blog with a five star review and the certainty that it was one of the bets books I read in 2016.
Cat / Ki
Known bookaholic and writer at weekends. Cat loves books and everything that's related to them. From time to time she has very strong feelings and opinions about books and the world and she likes writes about them (mostly in her blog Encruzilhadas Literárias). She also has a personal GoodReads account and she believes the world is a better place for it (AKA no more repeated books from relatives as gifts). She lives in the UK and can often be found either in Waterstones or the Charity Shops.