Monday, January 9, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Source: Ebury via NetGalley

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

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, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.
Review by Nara

The Bear and the Nightingale was a beautifully written novel and an impressive book to start off Katherine Arden's career as an author. It was very reminiscent of Uprooted by Naomi Novik, although that book had more focus on the relationship between the protagonist and the mage and this was more focused on the protagonist Vasya and her family.

The world building was fabulous and atmospheric; Arden's words painting a wonderfully vivid picture of an alternate Russia with a heavy fairy tale influence. It was clear that the author had done some research into the setting while also inputting her own twist. While this world building was very good, unfortunately it did also contribute to a somewhat slow pace, which is the only reason that I can think of that made this book fall slightly short of the "incredible" rating.

I must admit at first, I found it quite difficult to keep track of the many characters, especially because the nicknames were quite confusing (but as I understand it, the way that actual Russian nicknames work). As the book rolled on, it was much easier to get a better grasp on them, especially because the characters were quite well rounded. In particular Vasya and the various interplaying relationships within her family were of interest, with most of the focus of the book being on these characters rather than the plot (which was relatively slow going until the last part of the novel).

The Bear and the Nightingale is definitely a book that I can recommend. It seems that it is the first in a trilogy, and I am most certainly looking forward to the rest in the series.

Really liked it
Overall: 9/10
Plot: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5