The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Star rating: ★★★★ ☆ 4/5 stars
Format: ebook galley
Summary: Vasya is the last child of her mother, who died in childbirth– intent on having her even though she knew she wasn’t strong enough to have her. She grows up into a wild girl who can see the household-spirits, chyerty, who protect the house and help with household chores. When her father takes a new wife named Anna she puts in motion to stop leaving offerings for the chyerty upsetting the balance of good and evil in their village.
Review: I received a free galley copy of this book from Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I’m fascinated by Russian folklore (I’ll fight anyone who says Baba Yaga isn’t the coolest) so when I first heard about this book I was immediately interested. The writing is really good, it feels like you’re reading a fairytale that was written a long time ago.
I liked most of the characters but I had a hard time with Father Konstantin and Anna. At first I felt bad for Anna, all she wanted was the peace of a convent but her father decided that she would be married off to Pyotr. Obviously she was miserable but the way she turned all her bitterness to Vasya and how increasingly cruel she became towards her stepdaughter. She could never resist an opportunity to bring her down, usually by calling her ugly. I was shocked at how sweet her daughter Irina turned out to be.
The problem I had with Konstantin was his gross obsession with Vasya. For one she is a child, and for another he’s supposed to be celibate right? I mean, there’s nothing exactly wrong with not being celibate but when you’re in that sort of position it’s a bit of a break of trust, especially for these women. I’m not sure that makes sense but… Ugh he was gross.
I was confused at the ending of the book. I wasn’t sure what exactly was happening and why Vasya wasn’t with her sister Olga like she said she would be. Is she in love with Morozko? I just wish these things had been more defined in the end. I’m not exactly sure what their relationship is. I feel there is potential for a romance between them but I didn’t think at the end of the book it had really developed there yet. I did read that there are supposed to be two more books so hopefully this is addressed.
Overall though this book was really great. I loved the tone and all the supernatural beings in this book. I liked how close Vasya and all her siblings were. I thought it was a little slow in some places but I think there was enough with the characters to still keep me interested.
Recommendation: Whether you are interested in Russian folklore or not I think this is a great fantasy novel.