The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine Arden
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction
Published: 10th January, 2017
Series: Winternight Trilogy
Rating: 3

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

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, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

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.

This book was not what I expected… If I say the story was moving slowly, I wouldn’t be quite right, as it covered the first fourteen years of Vasya’s life, and still, it felt like not much was happening in the first half.

I loved the Russian folklore elements, and how these fairytale creatures were a natural part of everyone’s lives, even though only Vasya and her stepmother (Anna) were able to actually see them. While Vasya considers them friends, Anna is terrified of them and with the help of the overzealous priest, declares them the root of all evil. The author captures the villager’s despair brilliantly, how they turn against their old beliefs and superstitions when the truly horrible things start happening, going as far as blaming Vasya, calling her a witch, even though before the priest’s arrival none of them were bothered by the domovoi, the vazila, the rusalka and the other fairy folk.

Most of the story was set during winter, and I could almost feel the freezing cold through the pages. This is certainly one of those books that are best enjoyed under the blankie with some hot chocolate or coffee at hand.

What I didn’t like is that I had quite a hard time keeping up with the characters. I mean… Russian names are not that hard. But bloody hell… Like when Aleksei was called Sasha or Alexander randomly, and I kept forgetting that Kolya was Nikolai, Dunya was Avdotya (or something like that) and so on. Maybe we’d need a glossary for the names as well, like that handy list at the end of the book explaining all the words, phrases that were used in the story. (Just sayin’…)

I kind of want to read the next book though, but I definitely need a break.

Get The Girl in The Tower: (Winternight Trilogy) on Amazon UK (hardcover).


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