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review 2017-11-03 17:24
The Bear and the Nightingale
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

I get the feeling that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of those books which will either really work for you as a story or it will be just okay, depending on how familiar you are with Russian folklore and/or history. 


In classic fairytale style, the story starts with a small girl and her new step-mother, but Vasya is not just any girl and neither is her step-mother - both of them can see the supernatural creatures surrounding them (the domovoi who lives in the oven, for example) but while Vasya builds relationships with them, her step-mother Anna believes they are demons.


Vasya's father is the boyar, a local landowner living far from Moscow, who subsequently is sent a priest and icon-maker who is just a little too popular in the capital. The arrival of Konstantin, just as Vasya is getting to marriageable age and her father hopes she will settle down a little, leads to all sorts of problems with the balance between mundane and supernatural. Vasya herself is eminently likeable, strong-willed despite opposition and willing to do whatever is necessary to keep the people who are important to her safe, even in the face of supernatural forces. 


The series continues in The Girl in the Tower, which is due out next month - I'll definitely be picking that one up at some point in the near future, as Vasya is such a great main character. 

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review 2017-06-02 21:23
Good Story, Didn't Move Me Much Though
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

Sorry for the short review. I finished this the other day. I found it to be a good story. I do have to say though that I don't see me reading the next book in this series. I thought the book had a lot of flow issues throughout. And I still don't get the big deal with the "Bear" in this story since his power seemed to be really lame to me. I was hoping for another retelling like we got with The Lunar Chronicles series, but I just wasn't feeling this one very much.


There is a fairy-tale told at the beginning of the book that the book we are reading follows in certain aspects. The character we follow for most of this story is Vasilisa. Though before the book focuses on her entirely it flits around focusing on her nursemaid, her father, her brothers, and then eventually her stepmother along with other characters.


I don't know if the book would have been stronger for me if this was told in Vasilisa's first person point of view. Maybe. I was intrigued by her character and the backstory to her mother's family. The book leaves some things unanswered (hence another book). I was able to put bits and pieces together though so you can guess at her mother's family background.


The writing was okay. I think that the author really needs another way to describe winter though. It gets old reading about how something felt or looked like winter sunshine. Or the colors of someone's eyes. At one point I think I read several paragraphs which had some character or another noting that Vasilisa was not attractive, but they could not stop staring at her for whatever reason.


The flow is what hung me up the most in this book. I felt like I was waiting for something to happen for most of this book. It takes a while for the action to get moving. And then even that drags some.


The ending leaves things on a cliffhanger (my least favorite literary device ever) so maybe that influenced my overall feelings toward this book.  

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text 2017-05-09 00:09
Bookstore trip
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden
Amberlough - Lara Elena Donnelly
Tender: Stories - Sofia Samatar
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas
Not Quite Narwhal - Jessie Sima,Jessie Sima

I went to a bookstore on Sunday to pick up 2 books I had ordered, and left with 5 books. 


Sofia Samatar's collection, Tender: Stories is out! That and Amberlough were on my order. I've heard so many good things about The Hate U Give that I picked up a copy just because I saw it on the shelf. The Bear and the Nightingale and Not Quite Narwhal were both recommendations from one of the women who works there. She has pretty good taste, I usually take her up on recommendations.

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review 2017-04-20 00:00
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden A grand fantasy in a historic setting, The Bear and the Nightingale deserves every ounce of attention its received.

Vasilisa, known as Vasya, is the youngest child of a lord deep in the wilderness of medieval Rus. Her mother died giving birth to her so she has been mostly left to grow up roaming the countryside and dressing as she chooses. Stopping only to hear the stories around the stove at night. Vasya slowly becomes aware that she is the only one who sees the figures from those fairy stories - from the spirits who guard their homes and maintain the hearth to the supernatural predators of the watering holes. When her father remarries a devout Christian woman and a zealous and gifted priest comes to their Church, the villagers are frightened into giving up belief in their folklore. Something is stirring in the deep woods, however, and without the guardian spirits, Vasya may be the only one to stand in its way.

The book feels like an authentic depiction of the period, with the characters behaving in the way one would expect. Its also beautiful. Vasya's childhood is lovingly depicted, and when the supernatural plot kicks in it does not let up. Vasya's father, nurse, siblings, step-mother and various other characters, some of them real figures, add to the richness of the picture. This was a complete surprise for me and I'm happy to see that Arden has another book ready and waiting.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-14 05:20
Are You Cold?
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I LOVE Russian fairy tales. Absolutely adore them. I have a picture book of the story of Vasilisa the Brave and it's one of my favorites. So when I first saw this book discussed on here, I knew I had to read it. 


The Bear and the Nightingale is a fairy tale centered around wild child Vasilisa in her small village. Vasya's stepmother and the new priest scare the villagers away from their old traditions which leads to disaster and death visiting the village. Always a believing in the old stories and creatures, Vasya works to protect her family and her village. 


I loved this story. It was everything I could have hoped for in a new fairy tale. I couldn't predict the plot and in did the ending didn't fit my expectations. Which, to be honest, kinda chuffed me a little but I'll talk about that more towards the end. It was a original story, with notes of other Russian stories without being just a made over version of one. It was it's own original story and I loved that. 


All the characters were amazing, Vasya being my favorite. Well, I actually loved Solovey more because I'm a sucker for a talking horse but he didn't come in until about part 3. Vasya was a great protagonist. She's adorable and quirky and I loved watching her grow up throughout the story. The other characters were equally interesting and all were sympathetic, even Anna and Konstantin despite being the stories villains. 


The biggest drawback to the book for me is the ending of the climax did feel a little rushed and brushed passed. Like, there was kind of a deus ex machina I felt towards the end. The resolution fit with the overall build up the story had, which I appreciated, but I do think the execution could have been better. Like the pendant. It didn't seem to have anything to do with the resolution, which is what I kept expecting. Maybe I missed something and need a reread. 


I wasn't a fan of Vasya ending with "I will never get married because I'm a strong independent woman", simply because I'm tired of female protagonists in modern fairy tales making that declaration. It'd be nice to have a fairy tale where that wasn't a big concern, and while it wasn't out of character for Vasya, it also felt like it was added just to make her a "modern" hero. Like, her not wanting to get married had no impact or bearing on the overall plot at all. And her leaving her family to travel did feel out of character for her since all throughout the story we see how important her family and her village are to her, to the point she's willing to die for them. Then she's suddenly like, "I'm out, bye"? I just feel like if Arden was committed to the story ending this way, which clearly she was, she could have made these decisions clearer and more relevant throughout the whole novel.


This is completely a me problem, though, since what I'm getting at is the decisions at the end are just things I personally don't like in the story. Overall she wrote everything well and I'm just SUPER picky about my fairy tales. And I loved the relationship between Vasya and Morozko and wished she had shown us more of that. That to me would have been more interesting than her failed betrothal, but again, personal taste here. 


Final rating: 5 out of 5. When I push past my pickiness, this story is amazing and damn close to being a perfect story.


Final thought: Wish Baba Yaga was in it but I guess we can't have it all.

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