The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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When i saw all the hype surrounding this book I knew I had to give it a go and i can genuinely say, as clichéd as it is, that this book deserves all the hype and praise plus some.
It really is a beautiful book and is now firmly one of my top favourites so far this year and it is already October!
I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read this book, it has been in my TBR pile since it came out in January.

At its heart this is a classic tale of the fight between good and evil, life and death and all that falls between. It is also a fight between the old Gods and Christianity.

Just reading the book description was enough to get me curious about the book and once i finally started reading I just couldn’t get enough.
It’s a story about fairy tales, tradition, and the supernatural, where the line between reality and fantasy blurs and the people of a northern Russia village must decide between the old beliefs that have protected them for so long and a religion that could change everything. It’s the story about winter, its beauty, and its dangers. Most importantly, it’s about a girl named Vasilisa who is gifted with the sight and ability to communicate with household and nature spirits.

The first half of the book is mostly world-building and scene setting but that does not mean it is boring in any way, the descriptions of the characters and Russia during the 15th century are outstanding and when the story really starts to pick up halfway through the layers of the story begin to unravel beautifully.
The story starts with Vasilisa being born and her mother passing away. She grows up in the Russian wilderness, listening to folklore and faerie tales alongside her siblings, and leaving offerings for the creatures of superstitions. Vasilisa Petrovna has the sight. All around her she sees and speaks to the creatures that inhabit her home and her father’s land, creatures  from Pre-Christian folklore, known as “chyerty” by the villagers and “demons” by the Catholic. But in medieval Catholic “Rus,” having the sight is a dangerous; so she hides her gift and seeks her own way in the world.

All seems well until her father brings home a new, christian bride, Anna. This new bride brings household changes and misfortune and the arrival of a christian priest set with the task of putting the fear of god in to the people of the village, banishing their superstitions and believes and with this fear comes the suffering of the creatures of the folklore, for they are real and able to be seen by both Vasilisa and Anna.

Vasilisa must make a choice to give in to the wants of her stepmother and the priest, take her place as a woman in the kitchen or convent, or to do what she can to save the creatures and her father’s suffering lands. She must step in to the world of the old faerie tales.

Because the household spirits are no longer honoured and supported by the family, things start to go downhill in that their crops fail, people are being attacked in the woods by strange creatures, and the village is in danger. As the protection of the village starts to fail, everyone is in danger and Vasilisa is the only one that can save her home from the evil lurking in the woods, something much more terrible than the Winter King that haunts local folklore.

This book is classed as a YA book but I would highly recommend this book to every one of all ages, It really is worthy of being at the top of your TBR pile!
The main plus side to leaving this book so long to read is that i won’t have to wait a year for book 2 to be published 🙂

Book 2 “The Girl in the Tower” will be published on 5th December 17 in the UK.

This book can be purchased now and book 2 is available for pre-order

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