May 31, 2017

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

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.

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Oh my goodness.  This book is incredible!  It's based on a Russian fairytale and Ms. Arden did a wonderful job of bringing it to life.  

It's rare when I run across a book nowadays that totally sweeps me away.  There were even times when I was even shivering from the cold of the winter in Rus and the temps here have been in the 70s.   There were other times when the tale brought me to tears.

Ms. Arden has a deft touch with her characters.  They all were so detailed and three dimensional that they became real to me.  I fell in love with Vasilisa and her strength.  She had a touch of the Sight and refused to be put in the box that women typically resided in.  The only thing that really reined her in was her love for her family and her people.  

I enjoy fairy tales but this is the first time that I have had the chance to read one that absolutely took me away from my every day life.  I highly recommend it to any of my readers who enjoy fantasy or fairy tales.  You won't be disappointed.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.


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