31344916‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’Β 

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Amazon ebook 338 Ebury Digital Folklore / Fairy Tale January 12th, 2017

My review can hardly add anything of worth to the mix for this greatly loved book- it has won over so many hearts. One can hardly blame them… The elements of Russian folklore and culture are rich and in this case, put to a really good use.

But… I have to admit, I am a bit less blown away. Perhaps because the folklore and atmosphere is not as ‘exotic’ for me. The stories of demons and the birch-branches in the sauna, they would have been part of my normal life in Estonia πŸ™‚ Russia is, after all, just behind the border…

Having said that, the effect of The Bear and the Nightingale was one of bittersweet joy. It made me homesick on so many levels. Don’t get me wrong, Estonia is not Russia, but our folklore has overlap and the winters… above all, I miss a good snowy, freezing-my-ass-off kind of winter. Arden did a tremendously good job at painting the picture of scenery and even though I felt the start of the story was like a newborn calf trying to find its legs, it grew quickly and solidly in confidence, voice and purpose.

During long hours of his vigil, God had given him the answer. He knew what evil lay upon this land. It was in the sun-symbols on the nurse’s apron, in that stupid woman’s terror, in the fey, feral eyes of Pyotr’s elder daughter. The place was infested with demons: the chyerti of the old religion.

Overall, every piece, character and event fit into the story. The mixing of the old pagan ways with the Christian religion is always a bit of a favourite scenario for me. It opens up so many angles and directions for characters and offers many a conflict to aid the story to power on along. I am not even sorry to say this but Konstantin and Anna sit nicely on my hatelist. Konstantin, with all of his holy messages, forgot to keep his ego in check, and Anna- just…Β sigh

Vasya is a character every reader, opening a new book, wants to find in between the pages. She’s the character, a personality, that begs to be admired. True to herself, kind toΒ man and beast, she is the woman that defines the connection in between nature and mankind. She is the free and wild beauty that a human soul was meant for. If I was a domovoi or a rusalka, or any other kind of spirit, I would want Vasilisa to see me. My heart was often in my throat on behalf of her but needlessly…Β  She is a force and the outcome of the story for her was perfect.

If you, for whatever reason, have not yet read the book, then don’t expect a deep character study but rather an alluring tale about the consequences when man turns their back on ‘down to earth, back to roots’ kind of nature. What you get is a marvellous glimpse into many characters, their characteristics delivered through their actions rather than thoughts. But the atmosphere… it will pull you in and charm you, and it will keep you. It truly is mesmerizing. Some of my favourite scenes involved the Morozko, in the house that isn’t a house… The moments of kindness were fleeting but came off the pages so strong, I felt nearly breathless.

As far as fairy tales go, this is one not to miss. Comes with a 100% guarantee of an evil stepmother, a kind father, moral of the story, mythical creatures, cruelty and small victories.

The Bear and the Nightingale on Goodreads Β¦ Amazon UK Β¦ USA