Monday, March 27, 2017

Quick Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

From the Back Cover:

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.

My Thoughts:

Looks like I'm going to be the voice of dissension on this one. I'm sure you've seen the hype surrounding this book. It's hard to miss. Ads were everywhere when it was released, featuring one accolade after another. And the description sounds amazing, doesn't it? I so wanted to love it. I love Russian historical fiction, and I went into it expecting to love it, to be wowed, to be swept off my feet. Alas, none of that happened. While it's not a bad book, at the end of the day, I honestly found it to be just plain boring.

I loved the folklore and magical elements, and I liked Vasilisa, but the pacing is soooo slow. Agonizingly slow. And the omniscient style means we get the point of view of way too many characters, some who don't even have a name, that's how insignificant they are to the story, yet we get their fleeting thoughts anyway. And if you know me, you know I'm a stickler for a tight, focused point of view structure. The author's writing has been described as beautiful and lyrical, but I thought it was rather on the simple side. And then when I got to the end and discovered this is the first in a trilogy, I couldn't help but note that the story would not need to be a trilogy if this book had been trimmed down, the pace quickened, and the rest of the story added in. I actually groaned at the thought of reading this story stretched out over two more books at a snail's pace.

I don't mean to sound harsh, and I know plenty of readers are loving this, but it just didn't live up to my expectations. I'm still giving it three stars because I did stick with it till the end, and I did find some things to admire about it. But not enough to continue on with the other books.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. Oh no! I hate when books are so hyped & turn out to be mediocre reads to me. A slow pace is a killer. I've had this one on my wishlist. After reading your review, hmm. I think it just got sent down the ladder a few more rungs. I will probably still read it, or give it a go, but perhaps now I can save a few dollars and buy another book instead. Originally, this sounded like a winner.

    1. I am definitely in the minority on this one, so don't let me opinion stop you! I've seen many reviewers say they couldn't put it down. Reading is so subjective!

  2. I’m surely coming again to read these articles and blogs, Your post is very inspirational one.

    Naati translator


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