Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Publication Date: 30 Oct 2017
Country: USA, Russia
“Witch. The word drifted across his mind. We call such women so, because we have no other name for them.”
The Bear and The Nightingale is magical! I loved it and it is nothing short of perfection. It is easily one of the best books I have read this year, as of now. I know I am gushing, but this novel captivated me from start to finish. The Bear and The Nightingale is a retelling of several Russian fairy tales, but with a unique spin of them. These fairy tales are woven together to tell an enchanting tale that left me mesmerised and wanting for more.
Vasilisa Petrovna, or Vasya as she is affectionately called by her family, is the youngest daughter of a lord. She and her family live in a village at the edge of a dark wood in the northern Russian wilderness, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls for many months of the year. Dunya, the old nurse, tells stories of magic, sorcery and the Winter King to the children of the family. But for the young, feisty and wild Vasya, these are more than just stories, for she alone can see the house spirits that guard her home. She befriends and takes care of all the creatures that dwell on her lands. Even though Vasya’s family accepts her, the community and her stepmother fear her and call her a witch. Vasya’s father tries many things to get her to want the same things that most girls in this period wanted (marriage and motherhood) but Vasya wants to be free and travel the world. Meanwhile, there is a frost demon that does everything to ensure his and Vasya’s paths cross. Then a beautiful tale unfolds about a girl, a nightingale and a bear.
The Bear and The Nightingale has a strong feminist feel to it. Katherine Arden’s characterisation of Vasya sends out a message that girls can be anything they want to be, no matter what society tries to confine them to. This novel has an enchanting, almost otherworldly setting; the magical forest, the folklore and mythology and the lyrical prose makes The Bear and The Nightingale a fascinating read.
Words cannot describe how much I have loved this novel! I can’t wait to buy the second book in the Winternight Trilogy- The Girl in the Tower. The Bear and The Nightingale is an absolutely fantastic and magical book. I highly recommend this book to all readers, especially for fans of Neil Gaiman. I would also recommend reading the glossary at the back of the book to understand the meaning of the Russian words used in the novel.