The Bear and the Nightingale Summary and Reviews

The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden X
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
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Book Summary

A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman's myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

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 nearer, 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The stunning prose ("The blood flung itself out to Vasya's skin until she could feel every stirring in the air") forms a fully immersive, unusual, and exciting fairy tale that will enchant readers from the first page." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Arden has shaped a world that neatly straddles the seen and the unseen, where readers will hear echoes of stories from childhood while recognizing the imagination that has transformed old material into something fresh." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. Fleet and gorgeous as the firebird, a highly recommended exemplar of literary fantasy." - Library Journal

"An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale ... The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic." - Robin Hobb

"A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up." - Naomi Novik

"Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can't wait for her next book." - Terry Brooks

"The Bear and the Nightingale is a marvelous trip into an ancient Russia where magic is a part of everyday life." - Todd McCaffrey

"Enthralling and enchanting - I literally couldn't put it down. A wondrous book!" - Tamora Pierce

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Reader Reviews

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Ben

Fantastic!
Admittedly, I wasn't certain if I would like this book. I was browsing the bookstore and saw a soothing book cover with a scarlet "20 off" sticker stuck to the edge, so I picked it up.

I am a painfully slow reader. It's rare that I finish a book sooner than a month. This book, however, was impossible to put down. I finished it in three days.

Katherine Arden writes in such a style that never lets you forget that this is a fairy tale, but it never becomes overbearing; it's engaging and fascinating.

My only problem with the book is this: No one is reading it. A book this beautiful needs to be in everyone's hands. Instead, my book store was discounting it, begging people to buy it.

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More Information

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent her junior year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, where she worked every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to serving as a personal tour guide. After a year on the island, she moved to Briançon, France, and spent nine months teaching. She then returned to Maui, stayed, got restless, and left again to wander. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

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