The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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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.

34509865_10155344652741922_3189166942749458432_n This book was so magical and amazing.  Everyone has been recommending this book to me and now I see why. It was so beautifully written, It is a great winter read. This book was feminist and you get to watch the main character grow up, which is something you do not get to do often in Ya. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this Russia fairytale feminist kickass book.

Your MC Vasilisa grows up in a small village on the outside of Moscow. Vasilisa spends her child and teen years exploring and running wild through the forest of her father’s land, like her mother and she does it to also escape from her stepmother. Nature is kept in balance and Vasya enjoys talking with various guardians/demons until one day the beast comes to town and ends up threating her brother and making her father promise to give Vasilia a necklace and the changes this puts in place begin to tip the order of things.

A beast, known as the bringer of storms, has woken and, with the help of this stranger, has begun to slip the control that Morozko, Lord of Winter has over him. Soon a battle will take place between the two brothers and Vasya is the key to help bring some form of peace back into the village.

One aspect I loved about this book was how to author dealt with Christianity. In this book, you have a priest who is basically broken and doesn’t honor others beliefs, so when he comes in he makes others forget how to be respectful and still honor others beliefs and rituals, it essentially is what stirs up all the trouble with the old spirits. As Church of Christ, I don’t think the author was criticizing the faith at all. I personally loved this aspect of the book the most overall.

Overall this book was fantastic. The climax came a bit early in the book for me and I caught myself re-reading paragraphs to understand some of what happened, but I enjoyed it. Have you read the Bear and The Nightingale? Why Haven’t You? What did you think of this book?

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