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The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Winternight (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,0062902,153 (4.04)278
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, wilful 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)
  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.
  3. 00
    The Binding by Bridget Collins (raizel)
    raizel: The books have a similar feel to them, fantasy with a historical background and lots of descriptions of weather.
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» See also 278 mentions

English (282)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (285)
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
I loved this story and if you enjoy Russian folklore I think you will too! ( )
  s_carr | Feb 25, 2024 |
To be frank I chose to read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden for practical reasons in that it meets two prompts (A wintery fantasy/Set in the Arctic tundra) for two separate challenges I’ve joined in 2024. That said it’s also been on my TBR since it was published in 2017 so I was happy for the opportunity to finally read it.

The first in a trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale is set during the medieval period in Northern Russia. Arden blends the history, mythology, and folklore of the region to create an enchanting story that offers adventure, magic, tragedy and a hint of romance, full of heroes and villains, guardians and monsters.

Vasya (Vasilisa) is a compelling lead, a motherless girl born with innate magic, possessing a generous but headstrong spirit, with an immutable destiny. She is six years old the first time she encounters two strangers in the forest that surrounds her village, though she has no knowledge of who, or what, they are. It’s a meeting that triggers an ability which allows Vasya to see and communicate with the traditional spirits that inhabit hearth and nature. While Vasya takes this development in her stride, her new stepmother, and later a self important representative of the Orthodox Church who view pagan beliefs as evil, are determined to end such blasphemy. Vasya is the only one to recognise that denying the spirits is leaving the village and her family vulnerable to destruction, but she is unable to convince anyone else until it’s almost too late for them all.

There are moral lessons in The Bear and the Nightingale common to fairytales the world over about the importance of kindness, courage, truth, and love, and the perils of ignorance, oppression, greed, and ego. There’s even an evil stepmother, a predatory suitor, and a handsome prince, but the Russian flavour is prevalent with creatures such as domovoi (house spirits), rusalka (water spirit), and leshy (woodland spirits).

The Bear and the Nightingale is incredibly atmospheric, and helps to create an immersive narrative. Arden’s evocative descriptions conjure up the warmth of Vasya’s home, the deep chill of the Russian winter, the crowded markets of Moscow, and the menace of the forest as evil encroaches.

Though the pace of the story is measured to begin with, it’s bouyed by the lyrical prose, and as the aura of menace increases so too does the tension which builds to an exciting high stakes conclusion.

I’m really glad this challenge offered me the opportunity to read this novel, and I understand why it gained such popularity. The Bear and the Nightingale is a spellbinding, absorbing tale, and I’m hoping to make the time to finish the trilogy. ( )
  shelleyraec | Feb 3, 2024 |
Jälle üks Vene/slaavi mütoloogial põhinev lugu ja üsna tõhus lugemine, aga minu lemmikute riiulisse see ei pääse. Kui ma poleks kunagi Novikut lugenud, siis võibolla, aga kõik, mis on selles loos, on Novikul olemas ja palju parem.
( )
  sashery | Jan 29, 2024 |
A vivid fairy-ish tale based upon a fairy tale, made all the better by being set in Old Russia. As a bonus, the audiobook reader brings the Russian accent to life but not at the cost being able to understand what was being said. ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
Great series. Fun look at Russia ( )
  BookListener | Jan 18, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Katherine Ardenprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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, wilful 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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Book description
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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