It was late winter in Northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.
I know you should never judge a book by its cover but the stupendously striking cover brought The Bear and the Nightingale to my attention – isn’t it beautiful?! This tale is not only stunning on the outside but a fantastic tale of fantasy realism, set in medieval ‘Rus with a brilliantly headstrong protagonist to lead the way!
Katherine Arden delivers an astonishingly good read with her debut, mixing historical fiction with fantasy and depicting atmospheric medieval landscapes alongside ethereal Russian folklore. Using lyrical prose and a headstrong female protagonist, Arden manages to control and balance pace with atmosphere to create a truly magical read, rich with superstition and tradition.
I loved how easily Arden weaves fairy tale and folklore into the realism of Vasya’s world. Her language is poetic but not flowery and it creates a truly believable yet mysterious place to live within the pages. There are invading strangers, hidden secrets, manipulative shadows and untold pasts that take the reader on a fantastical adventure, one you’ll wish would never end.
The exploration of faith within The Bear and the Nightingale and the conflict between religious faith and ancient tradition is well established in Vasya’s world. The issues that arise when one tries to supersede the other for the community as well as the internal struggle for the characters is recognisable and helps to link this ancient tale to the modern world.
I read this book on my Kindle and it was only when I got to the end that I realised there was a glossary – people, there is a glossary! Reading without this didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book, I muddled through and made assumptions that were near enough correct, but the glossary sure would have helped so do use it when you pick up this astonishing and enchanting read!