I don’t normally talk about a cover, but let’s face it … this cover art is beautiful. What it suggests is a lyrical fairy tale, and that’s precisely what we get with the story inside.
Author Katherine Arden (whose very name conjures up fairy tale princesses) has written a Russian fairy tale, drawing on her own interest and education in Russian literature and language. But the story doesn’t require the reader to know Russian or even the history of Russian literature. The story requires only that you be willing to sit back and be willing to be mesmerized by the poetry of the writing and the descriptions of the countryside.
Vasilisa lives in the Russian countryside. It’s a harsh living, where it is winter most of the year, but Vasilisa is accustomed to the life and very satisfied. When her mother dies, her father travels to Moscow and brings back a new wife. This step-mother is a religious women and she forbids the family to worship in their pagan ways. But the way of life in the Russian wilderness is uniquely tied to the land and spirits who inhabit the land and those spirits won’t be dismissed without a fight. Vasilisa, who has the unique ability to peer into the spirit world is caught in the crossroads between the old, familiar way of life and the new regime.
Arden gives the reader an allegorical tale of the conflict of Christianity and paganism wrapped in a veil of fairy tale. it is an entrancing tale, but I will admit that I wanted the story to develop a bit faster than it did. The action of the tale really doesn’t start until two-thirds of the way into the book. It is all set-up before that, and then the action begins quite suddenly and a little more blending of the two would have made for a smoother story.
I enjoyed my reading of this book and if I were to have a copy of the next book in the (planned) trilogy I would read it as well. But … at the same time, I’m not in a rush to get the next book. I am not so totally enthralled that I can’t wait and if I don’t read the next installment, I likely won’t miss it.
Looking for a good book? The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a lyrical fairy tale set in the romantic past in the Russian countryside and is engrossing in the language but not quite as much so in the story itself. It is recommended.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Bear and the Nightingale
author: Katherine Arden
series: The Bear and the Nightingale #1
publisher: Del Rey Books
hardcover, 322 pages