Saturday, 15 February 2020

The Bear and the Nightingale

Title : The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1)
Author : Katherine Arden
Number of Page : 456
Publisher : Del Rey

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 either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, 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.

This book reminds me of Naomi Novik's stories. Whimsical, dark, weird, gloomy, and natural magic. The setting was in Russia around 12-13th century. It was told like a fairy tale, starting from the birth of Vasilisa (Vasya).

The magic in this book was very subtle, mentioned here and there through the folklores. It started like a normal historical fiction family story. Vasya's mother died when she gave birth to her. But, Vasya had many siblings anyway, typical old farmer families. They all worked in the field, tried so hard to prepare for the long winter to come. Boring stuffs.

Then, Vasya's father married a young wife, named Anna. She was crazy, though the truth was she could see magical creatures and ghosts. 

Among these normal things, Vasya had once met the winter king and a mysterious one-eyed man. There were dark forces surrounding the forest and wilderness near Vasya's home. Only Vasya could feel them and probably she was the only one who could save all the people. 

When I first knew about this trilogy, I was interested because of the historical setting. I just didn't expect the story would be like this. It is well written. It's just not for me. This book was almost the same as Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. Winter king, Russian folklores, dark forest, snow, cold winter. Luckily, the characters in this book were more memorable.

I still want know Vasya's life journey. I think the setting and magic in this book have great potentials to be very epic.



  1. I'm sorry this one doesn't really work for you. I love the atmosphere and the story, and since you mention it's so similar to Spinning Silver, I'm gonna check it out! :)

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

    1. Yes, you probably like Spinning Silver. The atmosphere is the same as this book. :)