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The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel (Winternight Trilogy) Hardcover – January 10, 2017
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A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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An Amazon Best Book of January 2017: There's a small but mighty space where fantasy and literary fiction can clasp hands and create a brilliant story that resonates in the soul. The Bear and the Nightingale lives squarely in that space, and those who dare to visit this novel will leave entranced. Set in the fourteenth century in the bitter north, a two-week ride from the rough city of Moscow, this mesmerizing tale centers on Vasya Petronova, a girl who barely survives birth (her mother doesn't) and grows up with a secret affinity for the sprites and demons that live in and around her village. "A wild thing new-caught and just barely groomed into submission" is how her father imagines her, and he's not wrong. As her family tries to harness her into the typical domestic life of a young noblewoman, Vasya spends more and more time among the sprites and soon gets caught between two old and powerful gods struggling for domination over her part of the world. Arden's debut novel builds like a thunderstorm, with far-off disquieting rumblings that escalate into a clash between sprites and humans, ancient religions and new, honor and ambition. If you haven't picked up a Russian-style novel lately, it can take a few chapters to recall that each character has a handful of nicknames you have to keep track of and that various storylines may take their time in weaving back into the main plot, but it's well worth the effort. And while I think there are only a dozen or so novels in this world that have a perfect ending, I would put The Bear and the Nightingale high on that list. --Adrian Liang, The Amazon Book Review
From School Library Journal
Reading Arden's debut novel is like listening to an entrancing tale spun out over nights in the best oral tradition. This mesmerizing fantasy takes place in medieval Russia, at a time when women had but two choices in life: serve their appointed husband by bearing his children and taking care of his household, or serve God in a convent. Vasilisa Petrovna refuses to do either. She has been a wild thing since birth, escaping her household duties to run free in the forest and conversing with spirits only she can see. But Vasilisa's behavior is taken in stride until a charismatic priest comes to her father's village, convincing his patronage that their custom of leaving offerings to curry favor from the spirits is sacrilege. Vasilisa knows that if this practice is stopped, the spirits will grow weak and be unable to defend the village when evil comes knocking. When first crops and then villagers begin to die, Vasilisa's unladylike behavior and refusal to follow the priest's teachings mark her as a witch in the villagers' eyes. But she is not the one who is bargaining with the devil. Vasilisa is a strong female protagonist whom teen girls will want to emulate. She knows her own mind and heart and refuses to succumb to societal expectations, and her beauty stems from self-confidence rather than physical appearance. Arden's lyrical writing will draw teens in and refuse to let them go. VERDICT A spellbinding story that will linger with most readers far beyond the final page.—Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA
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There are two main conflicts in the story. One is between two brothers, both spirits of Winter and Death, but one relatively benign and the other essentially evil. The other, which I found the more interesting of the two, was the conflict between the traditional pagan beliefs of the Northern people, featuring different spirits that guard homes, horses, forest, and more, and the relatively new and monotheistic Christianity, here presented (in the form of charismatic priest Father Konstantin) as primarily a religion of fear. The contrast is vividly presented in the difference between Vasya (Vasilisa) and her stepmother, Anna Ivanovna, the only two characters who can see the spirits: Vasya finds most of them friendly and treats them with kindness and respect, but to Anna, obsessed with the new religion, they are all demons.
The story focuses on Vasya’s learning how to deal with both of these conflicts and their consequences as she grows to maturity, but it also develops a third, somewhat less obvious conflict: between Vasya’s independent personality, as free and nature-oriented as those of the spirits she befriends, and the very limited range of roles and behavior considered acceptable for women of her time and place, even those who, like herself, belong to a basically loving and relatively well-to-do family. She earns her fairy-tale ending, but I wondered what she would have done if she had not had magic to help her.
Debut novelist Katherine Arden has created an enchanted landscape of characters and creatures fighting a terrifying battle to save their woods and people. Arden’s beautifully crafted prose contains a bit of Dracula, a dash of Lewis’ The Monk, some folklore and a touch of Wuthering Heights. It is all of these things, and yet is uniquely Arden’s own brilliant creation at the same time. This is likely the IT book in fantasy for 2017 and is highly addicting reading. The Bear and the Nightingale is one of those perfectly crafted stories that jumps genres and will appeal to large audience outside fantasy as well as in it. (I personally rarely read fantasy, but this one kept me up all night reading.) Beautifully written and possessing a fairytalesque quality, this book is destined to be an instant hit.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
- Heavy folklore aspect from a culture I am unfamiliar with
- Historical fantasy
- Religious...Read more