The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Published: January 10th, 2017 by Del Rey Books
Genre: Young adult, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Fairy tale
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.
This story is sopping with folklore. I say 'sopping', because it reads like folklore. A dark and mysterious story, filled with adventure.
I'll be honest (I mean, that's what I'm here for, right? To honestly state my opinion...). I was tempted to give up reading it at first. Not much was happening--well, not enough to hold my attention, or make me need to return to it. But I held out, and I am glad I did. There came a turn in the story, one that literally had the hair on the back of my neck standing up. It must've been a little past the halfway point when I knew I had to finish reading this book.
I don't know if anyone else is like this, but when I pick out books to read, I care a lot about the font and spacing. If the words are too small and the lines too close together, my eyes grow tired after some time spent reading. I could be reading an action-packed scene even, but if the size and spacing is off, I will fall asleep.
This was probably one reason it took me a while to finish The Bear and the Nightingale. Ever read those Charles Dickens books with the lettering and space I mentioned? Yeah. Tiny. I LOVE Charles Dickens, but there are things that can be done to make his work easier to read--for me at least.
Enough about that. Moving on to the writing itself, I found it very lyrical, and it flowed somewhat. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for the old-timey feel. Also, there was the hype about how wonderful the book is. And it is good, don't get me wrong. I just expected more, I guess. Something mind-blowing; something that added umph to Russian folklore.
Anyway, I won't drag this on. I'd give it three and a half stars. I took off a half star, because it didn't fulfill my expectations and it had a slow start. Otherwise, it would've been four stars.
Again, my opinion. If you loved this book, don't stone me. Yeesh.
I may read more from Katherine Arden, but I'm afraid it may be some time before I return to any of her work--only because I have other books to read and review!