The Bear and the Nightingale
Winternight Trilogy #1
author : katherine arden
pages : [hardcover] 323
memorable quote :
Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.
favorite character : vasilisa
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 is one of those books where I constantly wonder why it took me so dang long to read it. The Bear and the Nightingale is beautifully written. It starts off a little slowly, but I absolutely love the old-style fairy tale tone that dominates this book. It’s the kind of long book that you just sink into without wanting it to end–which is why I was excited to see that it was a series after I finished this one!
This is one of those stories I absolutely recommend to the fairy tale retelling fan who feels like they’re read everything out there (aka someone like me, hello let’s be best friends). This is new, exciting, and gives you that delightful retelling feeling without absolutely knowing where the plot is going or what will happen with all of the characters. There’s no room for the mundane, only magic.
I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to reread it (and get my hands on the next one)!