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The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Winternight (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,7762063,685 (4.07)226
"A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern'sThe 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 marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles nearer, 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. Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale "An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale. A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic."--Robin Hobb, bestselling author of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy "A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up."--Naomi Novik, bestselling author of Uprooted"-- "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, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful 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"--… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, Morgan05, JRhome, Arina42, Melissa101, scarletscholar, arsmith1994, hathornml
  1. 60
    The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Iudita)
    Iudita: Beautifully written and based on folklore.
  2. 40
    Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (flying_monkeys)
    flying_monkeys: Both read like novel-length fairy tales based on Russian folklore. Both embrace their cold, wintry setting to superb effect.
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» See also 226 mentions

English (208)  Dutch (1)  All languages (209)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
I love books that spend the first quarter of the book building up a characters only to have them never appear again.

Obviously the characters will play a part in the next book but like ?????? ( )
  Biblio-Beth | Mar 2, 2021 |
This is a very different book in a good way. I really liked the setting in what is now Russia and the way the story is like an old fairytale but so much more. I don't give many 5 rating or write many reviews. This one is special. ( )
  Rick686ID | Jan 27, 2021 |
Despite having good reviews by some of my friends, I could not read this book. There is much atmosphere in this story - darker and colder as it goes on ... but I could not connect with neither the characters, nor the storyline.
  JA | Jan 22, 2021 |
“Tell the story of Frost, Dunyashka. Tell us of the frost-demon, the winter-king Karachun.”

This book has quite a cult following, but for me it did not live up to the hype. The opening chapter gripped, but I struggled thereafter. The story is beautifully written and often poetic, but it is slow. Real slow. In fact, we don’t get to the main drama of the story, the battle between good and evil, until some 300+ pages in. For the majority of the book, we follow Vasya as she eats, sleeps and hangs out with the horses. When we finally reached the battle to which Vasya had been heading since birth, it is rushed and over with extremely quickly. There was a huge build-up with little gratification.

Character wise, in modern day senses Vasya would be a feminist, and whilst it’s great that the protagonist has such a strong sense of who she is and what she will/will not stand for, in reality this does not tie in with a young girl in medieval times. There is little to no internal struggle or self-doubt, making it difficult for her to be relatable. She would wander off doing her own thing, even when she had chores that were vital in helping to keep the family sheltered and sufficiently fed through a long treacherous winter. It was literally a time of life or death for some, and yet she had little concern for this. The many other characters often appeared as bystanders with little insight into their feelings. Take Vasya’s siblings for example. Sasha and Olga initially appear important to the story and then leave, strangely fading into history, barely thought of again. We never learn of Irina’s true feelings about the confrontations between Vasya and Irina’s mother (Vasya’s step-mother). The only character that stood out to me as being real and true was Vasya’s father Pyotr Vladimirovich. He is clearly torn between his duties as master of the village, as a worthy father to all of his children, as a husband to a devout and difficult woman, and for his love for the fierce and different Vasya. He ultimately sacrifices his life without fear to save Vasya and her siblings.

I found this story to be whimsical and poetically written. The setting is realistic and captivating and the author is clearly talented in this respect. If this were a standalone book, it could have been shorter whilst still including the much needed character development. Yet this is the first in a three-book series, and I feel that there was a lot of unnecessary padding in order to create a link to the next in the series. Whilst this book was not terrible, it did not live up to my expectations. I would recommend this as an enjoyable, lyrical read, but would not enthusiastically do so. As for the next two books in the series, I’d possibly read them if gifted/borrowed, but I do not intend to buy them. ( )
  moosenoose | Jan 8, 2021 |
This book grips you right away – not so much like a runaway rollercoaster, but more like a grandfather who has worked his whole life in the field might grip the hand of a grandchild as they cross a road, firmly but not unkindly, if a little too tight.

I am largely unfamiliar with Russian/Eastern European fairy tales and folklore. What little I've encountered has been filtered through English (or other Western European) writers, and a lesser amount from general cultural osmosis. There are many recognizable elements from the Germanic, French and English folk tales I am grew up with and have studied – customary ingredients from Tolkien's "soup," as it were – but they are combined with other components and assembled in different ways so as to be fresh and interesting. Arden does a great job of weaving those elements around a compelling narrative, creating a story that moves at an even (almost inexorable, but in a good way) pace.

I will definitely pick up the sequel. ( )
  octoberdad | Dec 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arden, Katherineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
AitchCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bachman, Barbara M.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boesewinkel, IngeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carpentier, MargeauxCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gati, KathleenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hunt, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Random House AudiobooksPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, David G.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
By the shore of the sea stands a green oak tree;
Upon the tree is a golden chain:
And day and night a learned cat
Walks around and around on the chain;
When he goes to the right he sings a song,
When he goes to the left he tells a tale.
-A.S. Pushkin
Dedication
To my mother
with love
First words
It was late winter in northern Rus', the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English

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"A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern'sThe 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 marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles nearer, 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. Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale "An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale. A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic."--Robin Hobb, bestselling author of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy "A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up."--Naomi Novik, bestselling author of Uprooted"-- "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, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful 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"--

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Haiku summary
Don't get lost in the
woods: they're cold and all sorts of
foul creatures hunt there.
(passion4reading)

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