Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release Date: January 10th 2017
Katherine Arden captivates with her storytelling in her debut fantasy The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya grows up in a family that belongs to two worlds. In a time where devotion to the old gods is dying, Vasya must hide her ability to see the old ones, but her gift may be what saves her as a darkness slowly descends upon the land. Her new stepmother and a recently arrived priest believe these creatures to be demons and are determined to rid the people of their devotion to said gods, but in so doing, they will put everyone in danger. As Vasya grows older, it becomes clear that her journey will bring her closer to Morozko, a demon of winter, but whether he offers help or death is uncertain.
Arden’s novel may be slow-paced for some, but for those who enjoy the journey of a tale and love an intricately woven story, The Bear and the Nighingale unfolds delicately and rewardingly. The novels opens before Vasya is even born where characters like her mother, whom she never gets to know, remain important players in a larger story. With eloquent descriptions that bring the bitter cold of Vasya’s world to life, allow the magic of old to seep through its pages, and takes the reader on an epic journey, Arden’s writing is an utter delight.
I loved how we as readers get to see Vasya grow up. As the world around her is concerned with more dire matters, Vasya grows up wanting to be a part of her older siblings’ lives but is always being told she is too young. Even as a child, she is willful and astute, her eagerness and unabashed openness is sometimes regarded with offense. Her stepmother regards her with barely contained scorn. Her potential beaus are shaken by her audacity and strength. The pious priest Konstantin, takes every opportunity to remind Vasya that she must turn to God and forsake old beliefs. Vasya, despite the disapproval of those around her, remains a strong and able heroine. Brave and selfless, Vasya is a character who is hard to forget and one worthy of admiration.
The Bear and the Nightingale is a wondrous tale of one girl’s strength in the midst of a cruel world and the power of sacrifice. Vasya is a protagonist who is easy to love and with every step she takes, you as a reader feel like you are taking it with her. Characters like the enigmatic Morozko are both dangerous and magnetic, making you want more. With this debut, Arden has secured herself as an author to pay attention to.