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Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

“In the north, the wind had teeth that bit after sunset, even in summer."

This is one of my favorite books of 2017.

A dazzling folkloric fairytale best suited for an evening curled up with hot cider and a blanket.
I love fairytales, and I'm not talking about the versions Disney served up to me as a child. What I love about most fairytales is that they tend to lean towards the darkness with interesting characters and lessons to be learned. I find that fairytales of today too often resemble their Disney depictions and veer away from their roots - but not this one.

In a small village on the outskirts of the wilderness in the depth of winter harshness, there is a house where the spirits are respected and tales are told of Frost demons to whom young maidens are sent.

Into this household, Vasya is born - the youngest of her siblings and her birth resulting in the death of her mother. As a small girl Vasya is curious and wild and what, in the eyes of a father, should she need more than a mother?

Soon, her father brings home a new wife - one who does not believe in the old stories or spirits and instead clings to her religion. The addition of a crooked Priest only serves to further worsen things - and the villagers begin to fear the old ways, and the spirits who dwell in their homes and the forest. The farther they stray from the old, the worse things become for the villagers and Vasya's family.

It's a classic tale of old versus new and religion versus folkloric tradition and whose voice wields the most control.

I loved the darkness that slowly seeps from the edges of the story into its center. The domovoi in the house, the vazila in the stables who teaches Vasya to communicate with the horses - the storytelling steeped in Slavic folklore is both enchanting and eerie. Arden's prose is beautiful - the imagery it evokes is absolutely incredible. It's a book that will stick with you even after you've finished it and moved on to something else.

If you enjoy imagery rich fairytale like story telling - this is probably right up your alley.
I am beyond excited for the second book in the series!

Buy It

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