Friday, January 20, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

336 p.
Publisher: Del Ray
Published: 1/10/17
Source: NetGalley and Publisher for review
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.
My thoughts:
 
I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I understood it was a retelling of mythology, especially one that I'm not familiar. And while I've seen people equate Frost with Jack Frost in nature (and I totally see why), he felt more like a Russian version of Hades and his twin brother reminded me of Ares and Phobos combined. We also get some house spirits that reminded me of the mythology of Brownies but friendlier. Yes, you can safely say I enjoyed this book.

You follow Vasya who comes from an unusual lineage and has a wild and forthright attitude and is a strong woman. Of course during this time period, that causes problems, but he family still supports her being who she really is inside (with the exception of the step-monster... uh... mother). She has magic in her blood which also causes problems when an enigmatic priest comes to spread the word of God. This does deal with religion, but really isn't religious. The world this story inhabits is when pagan mythos clashed with Christian mythos. It reminds me of many of the stories you get when the fae diminish because of the one God religion. All is very familiar so it helps with those of us who don't know much about Russian mythology.

In the end Vasya makes difficult choices and also isn't the one to make the big sacrifice. I liked that she didn't fight as a man and didn't know how but had her own strengths she wielded with courage and wisdom. To me, this made her strong as she did not emulate man but was her own woman. There is also very little romance to the story and this book may become part of a series. I hope so because there is hint of something at the end and I need to know more. It isn't a cliffie, but I need that story I am hoping to get.

I give this book 4 stars. It is highly recommended to those that love mythology stories and a strong woman character who defies what she "should" become and has the courage to find herself.

40 comments:

  1. This sounds so interesting! I've never heard of this before but the plot sounds incredible. Definitely adding this to my TBR. Thanks for the great review!

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    1. If you enjoy mythology, I have a feeling you will enjoy this one! :)

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  2. I love mythology so I think I would enjoy this. Thanks so much for sharing it and wonderful review for it. Have a nice weekend!!

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  3. Ooh interesting! I'm not usually into mythology and have mixed results with retellings but this sounds so different.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. I hope you enjoy. I love retellings and mythology so this one was for me. LOL

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  4. It is *so* timely that I saw this review today! I just picked this book up from the library yesterday and can't wait to start it. I only first heard of it a week ago and since I'm a sucker for Russian history/culture/folklore, I knew I had to get this one. The one review I've seen mentioned the pacing was very slow but I'm happy to see that you (apparently) didn't think so. I really enjoyed your review and I'm looking forward to reading it myself.
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

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    1. Oh nice! I can see why they thought it was slow but it seemed like a good pacing to me for the telling.

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  5. I'm really looking forward to this one. I saw on Goodreads that it's going to be a series and that the author is writing the next book. I know very little about Russian mythology so I'm really psyched to find out more. It sounds like this book would be better read in print form rather than audio.

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  6. I have this up on my blog on Monday. I really loved this one The writing was gorgeous and it was so different. I wasnt' a big fan of the religious themes though and I wanted more romance. Still it was well worth the read. Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. I think the religious theme set the stage and really couldn't have been told without it so it didn't get in my way. I also wanted more romance. :D

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  7. I have this on audio, and will be excited to listen

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  8. Neat! I love stories based on a mythological element/s. She does sound like a good heroine to appreciate.

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    1. I really liked the way she was portrayed and was a strong likable character.

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  9. Pretty cover! It sounds really interesting!

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  10. The pagan vs Christian clash always at least gets my attention, as it's a story trope I like. This one seems good and I've seen some enthusiastic reviews. I like the sound of vasya too and that she's strong without having to be a "fighter" per se.

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  11. Gorgeous review and I love your thoughts on Hades and Jack Frost symbolism. This was such an awesome read for me and I'm hoping for more to come.

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    1. It felt really like the author thought the same way, although I'm not sure about that. :) I am also glad it isn't a standalone. :)

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  12. I am seeing bad and good things about this one

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    1. I think it depends on your perspective on things.

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  13. this one had some great reviews everywhere so I confess that I'm curious!

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    1. I hope you get and enjoy! I'd love to see what you think about it.

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  14. I have been seeing this around so much lately and I am thrilled you loved it! I love a good re-telling, especially when it features a strong woman who doesn't let societal standards limit her. Wonderful review!

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    1. Agreed. I think that is what really carried me through the book.

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  15. Yours is the 2nd great review for this book and I really need to find this one! I'm even more intrigued now!! Awesome review!!!

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  16. The cover on this always makes me stop because it is gorgeous. I like the mythology aspect. Lovely review!!

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    1. Agreed. I think that is what caught my attention as well. :)

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  17. This sounds like an excellent read, Melissa! I love mythology used in stories, especially when I get to learn more about it. :) And the combination that seems to be used in this one is fascinating. I hadn't heard of this book but you just put it on my tbr. ;)

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  18. So glad you enjoyed this book! I read part of it and had to put it down, but I was enjoying it! I really liked the feel of the old Russian fairy tale :) Fabulous review!

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

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    1. I hope you get to finish it since you liked what you read. :)

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  19. I remember seeing that cover and thinking how gorgeous! It does sound pretty good. I do love a good bit of mythology.

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    1. I really like mythos that I'm not familiar with so that reeled me in! :)

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  20. This sounds better than I would have originally thought. That's great! So many great elements to it. Sweet! Thank you!

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