I borrowed The Bear and the Nightingale from a friend forever ago, and finally made the time to read it – just in time for the sequel to come out next week!
Here’s the Goodreads synopsis.
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.
I had a hard time getting into The Bear and the Nightingale. It was a slow start and jumped around from pov to pov in ways that didn’t entirely make sense at first. About a third of the way through the book I finally got hooked and ultimately enjoyed the story.
The Bear and the Nightingale is a fairytale in its’ own right and by the end has all the epic fantasy and adventure a good fairytale includes. Strong characters and archetypes, a battle for family and countrymen against powers beyond their knowing and against all odds. A lovely debut and foray into a new to me folklore.
The story wraps up neatly at the end, so The Bear and the Nightingale could easily have been a stand-alone novel, but the sequel The Girl in the Tower comes out December 5, 2017 and is the second in the Winternight trilogy.
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