[Review] The Bear and the Nightingale

25493853I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Quick fire review:

If you are looking to read a great debut with very few flaws, stunning characters and vivid world building, look no further. Recommend to everyone!

“We who live forever can know no courage, nor do we love enough to give our lives.”

*Contains minor spoilers*


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.


4.5 out of 5 stars

This is stunning, both inside and out.

Set in 14th century Russia, this debut novel is a vibrant and beautiful take on Russian folklore. We join Marina, a pregnant mother of 4, her husband and her nurse Dunya before she gives birth to her 5th baby and our protagonist, Vasya.

Vasya is born with her grandmothers spirit and is host to her powers. As she grows, Vasya becomes an independent and fiery young woman who you can’t help but love.

Written as a fairy tale, we follow Vasya as she navigates a life under the watching eye of her fellow villagers in a time where politics, religion and feminist ideals are up in the air. What I love about this character and the book overall is the way Arden portrays Vasya. Even in the trickiest of situations, she never stoops to making Vasya feel like a victim of her surroundings; she stands tall amongst the masses.

“Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.”

Favourite things:

  • The vivid imagery and attention to detail thanks to some stellar writing.
  • A new and unique take on Russian Folklore. I have read a couple of books with Vasya as the main character and this one takes the cake by far.
  • The narrative is perfectly paced and reads like a fairy tale.
  • Vasya and her counterparts are intriguing, complex and well rounded.
  • Vasya is a badass. Independent, strong, kind, soulful, brave and full of life, Vasya keeps her spark until the very last page.
  • Strong focus on family
  • All. The. Emotions.

Is it obvious I liked this yet? If you are looking to read a great debut with very few flaws, stunning characters and vivid world building, look no further. Recommend to everyone!







7 thoughts on “[Review] The Bear and the Nightingale

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