The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale
Katherine Arden, 2017

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: A minor noble in medieval Russia loves his wife for all her strangeness. Their daughter Vasya will inherit her mother's gifts and defend her home as best she can from the darkness of both men and spirit.

I was very hopeful about this book, the descriptions and tag lines were all very intriguing. In the end, I liked it, but it wasn't as special or unique as I might have wished.

The writing style and use of Russian folklore and culture were well done; I felt that I could see the creatures and the places. However, the plot meanders for a while setting up all the pieces before getting to the meat. All of the setup - Vasya's parents, politics that affect their family, her birth and early childhood - just isn't that compelling to me.

Vasya is a wild child with an affinity for spirits and the land. Her main adversary is the changing culture, as personified by a devout stepmother and a zealous young priest who seeks to dominate her village and exterminate the old customs. While this is easy to sympathize with, and I enjoyed the story, I did feel like I've read and seen very similar dynamics many times.

The sequences in the last third or so I felt were the strongest. Vasya finally comes into her own and the climactic action was fairly satisfying.

3 Stars - A Good Book


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