10 January, 2017

REVIEW: THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and The Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Series: -
Genres: Historical fiction, Fairytale, Magic
Publisher: Del Rey
Release: 12 January 2017
Source: ARC
Pages: 336

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BLURB:
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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A friend of mine has recommended this book to me on Goodreads and it ended up being on my 2017 Most Anticipated Releases list and of course when I received an ARC of it I was well let's say I was doing more than just a happy dance.


THE WORLD: So before I went into this book I already knew to expect Russian Fairytales, therefore the world was not a big surprise to me. It is set in Ivan the Fair times of Russia, pretty much not long after Russia or Rus how they call it in the book has become Christian. Therefore, all the old gods, the pagan ones have been banned. We get a bit of the two worlds here as the main story takes place in remote village which is two weeks away from Moscow by horse, as well as we also get to travel to Moscow itself once in the beginning when the father of main character needs to remarry. But I do not want to spoil too much here so I am just going to tell you that if you are a lover of magic and magical creatures this is a book for you. I truly enjoyed all the pagan gods and creatures, even more than usual I must say.

CHARACTERS: So we have really many characters in this book and me trying to name them all would be a blood bath because the author used Russian names as well as hundred deminutives and I am not good at remembering the spelling of them. But I will try my best. So our main character is named Vasilisa which is easy enough except for the fact that she is called many deminutives, but main one was Vasya. So our Vasya is different, she is a lastborn of the lord Pyotr of the village and also the reason her mother Marina died after birth. But Vasya is different not just in this, she is also wild and uncontrollable and at some point it might even get a little bit annoying how she does what she likes even it is times when women listened to their fathers and husbands. But eventually Vasya starts to grow on you, you starts to feel for her, especially when uydyrs start coming. Oh you don't know what uydyr is? Well I didn't either before I read this book, but don't worry for every Russian word there is a translation and explanation at the end of the book,  sorta dictionary in a way. Anyways, as I mentioned there are more characters way more in this book. But I think worth mentioning the most are Dunya, Pyotr, Alyosha, Anna Ivanovna, Konstantin and Morozko (yes I had to google their names). So because Marina, Vasya's mother has died during child birth Dunya her nanny pretty much becomes a mother to Vasya. I mean she is a nanny in general, she raised Marina, then Marina's children and then Irina which is a child of Anna Ivanovna and Pyotr. I know all these names are very confusing right now and frankly it was even confusing for me because the families in this book or main family is huge! I still cannot differentiate between full names of oldest brothers. Anyways, so how much can I really tell you here? Well Anna Ivanovna is a wicked mad stepmother and Pyotr is her husband and father of all the children. He is also a lord but to be honest he felt a really weak man to me. I mean he loved his daughter but he pretty much did anything Anna told him. And Anna was really evil. I still don't really get why she suddenly became this evil and jealous and yeah pretty much a stepmother of ever Russian fairytale. She was mad but lovely in the beginning so what happened was not clear. But probably most evil person in this book is Konstantin. He is a priest full of glory who is sent to the village to pretty much be gone from Moscow. I really really disliked Konstantin, I think he was a perfect villain in a way but at the same time he represented Christianity so it was I must say a bit weird. In general the take on religion in this book...You can feel that the author was bias. We all like old pagan tales and I am not religious at all but even I felt there was something deeper here. So yes, that is a lot of names and very little description but if you do end up reading this book you will understand why it is this way.

LOVE: As many Fairytales love was not in the centre. Frankly, it kinda felt like old Rus had no love at all. As a man it is important you have money and as a woman it is important to breed healthy sons. That's pretty much it. Even when it comes to religion, you must fear the God and repel for your sins. No love mentioned there either.

PLUS: I really really and I cannot emphasize enough how much enjoyed the scary part of this book. It took extremely long for this book to get going and the ending was not the greatest but the part where Vasya is sitting with domovoi and uydyr is walking outside, just brilliant!

MINUS: As I just mentioned it took extremely long for the book to start going. You pretty much need to read about 60 percent of the book before something really happens. But I kinda get it, with all different culture and confusing names I guess you need long to start to understand and get to know the characters. However, this use of Russian worlds...it was authentic I agree but on the other hand I felt it was way too much. I get the names and locations but there were so many unnecessary words used too. Like there are two or three words of daughter in Russian and the only change is one letter...and they are always used instead of simple daughter. I mean okay some words felt natural but others...for me personally it was a huge overload. If I wanted every tenth word to be Russian wouldn't I just pick a book in Russian and learn the language? Sure it was not a type of a fiasco as with the Book Thief where German phrases were used that were just well nobody ever used them in reality or Raven Boys where Latin is written by Google Translator but really, too much is too much even if you do write it correctly.

OVERALL: I enjoyed it but I cannot help but fell a bit disappointed. I just expected more I guess. But if you like Russian literature or fairytales I do highly recommend The Bear and The Nightingale. After all, it is very different to what we usually see on bestsellers shelves today. Personal rating 3.5/5 stars.

What do you guys think about THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE?