Russian Fairy Tales Come to Life | The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden [ARC]

The Bear and the NightingaleVasya was born on a windy night to a dying mother who knew that Vasya was going to be someone special. As Vasya grows and becomes more and more wild, her father starts to worry that she needs a motherly influence. So he goes to Moscow and brings back a bride whose sanity may be a little questionable as she claims to see demons where others see nothing. While learning how to live with her new step-mother, Vasya continues to develop into a striking young woman who may have inherited a little bit of her grandmother’s magic.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the writing was beautiful and I was very interested to learn about Russian mythology and fairy tales as that is an area that I know literally nothing about. I’ve always been a fan of mythology and fairy tales in general, so it was just fun to hear some new stories. I thought the author did a great job of incorporating Russian culture and language into the overall story without ruining the flow. I did find myself wondering, however, whether this was supposed to be a complete alternate Russia/Russia-derivative (kind of like Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha-verse) or if it was simply a fantastical historical Russia. The author’s note at the end of the book cleared that question up, but it wasn’t really clear throughout the story and I found myself distracted in some parts.

I thought Vasya was a really compelling character. I loved how the author starts the book with Vasya’s birth and we get to follow her into her teenage years. It really allows the reader to watch the character develop and helps us to understand who she is and what her motivations are. I also thought Vasya stayed really true to who she was supposed to be as a character throughout. Sometimes I’ve found that characters do things that don’t really make sense with who they are supposed to be, but I thought Vasya was a great example of somebody who just made sense as a character. She was so complex and conflicted throughout the book. As a reader, I felt that I could really empathize with what she was going through. Vasya tries to be the good Russian girl that she’s supposed to be, but at the same time her heart is leading her in a completely separate direction. Just…a really good character. I also loved the cast of secondary characters that Arden gives us. The familial relationships that exist between Vasya and her brothers and her younger step-sister felt so genuine.

The plot itself was a little slow-moving. It required a lot of setup, but I didn’t really find that I minded. The world that the author paints for us is so beautiful and filled with an ordinary (but at the same time not ordinary) magic. That being said, nothing much really happens until the last 25% of the book and then I felt that the ending was a bit abrupt.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes well-developed characters or who is interested in a historical picture of Russia. Just from a quick scan of Goodreads, it looks like this book is the author’s debut novel. I anticipate that we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future.

Overall: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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4 thoughts on “Russian Fairy Tales Come to Life | The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden [ARC]

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