An Enchanting and Immersive Fairy Tale Retelling
“I am only a story, Vasya.”
I had heard GREAT things about this book before I dove in. Some of my favourite humans in the book world told me that it was intriguing, magical and that it would suck me in and when I finally picked it up, I was SO EXCITED for all the wonder it would hold.
The Bear and the Nightingale is an enchanting and spell binding Russian fairy tale retelling with a witty, courageous protagonist, magic, family and death and I LOVED IT.
My only problem with this book was the pace for three-quarters of it – The Bear and the Nightingale was JUST SO SLOW. Especially during the middle parts when the novelty of the world wore off, I feel like the book itself had stagnated, with nothing at ALL happening. I’ll go into it in more detail below.
1. Katherine Arden’s writing was SPECTACULAR throughout the course of the book. I was in awe of her ability to bring Russia, winter and magic come to life through her ever changing viewpoints. It was lush, enchanting writing and this story wouldn’t have worked without it.
2. I fell in love with Vasilisa Petrovna and her courage, her need to be independent and her fiery loyalty. She knew what was right and fought for it and she had such a big heart. It’s so difficult to explain her as a character because she feels real to me and I can’t do her justice. She was a genuine, headstrong girl who believed in herself and in the simple magic all around her.
3. The pace of this book for the first three quarters was SO SLOW. I usually understand why the beginnings of books are so slow but when everything happened with Father Konstantin, his icons, and Vasilisa’s stepmother, I still enjoyed the book as a whole, but I really had to push through to reach the end. I wish all the events happened at a better pace than they did because then this book would have been a definite five star.
4. LET’S JUST TAKE A MOMENT TO APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY THAT IS THE COVER OF THIS BOOK. I’ve been reading it for days and I’ve had it for months and I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH IT.
5. I loved Vasya’s family, especially Alyosha. I feel like we didn’t get to see enough of her other siblings – Kolya, Olga, Sasha and her half-sister, Irina – but I did love the understated bond between all of them. I loved Alyosha and his silent protectiveness about his sister most of all.
6. The last hundred or so pages of this book (from the start of part three, really) were ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. I adored where the story progressed, the fairy-tale brothers that were really introduced and everything else about it. It was delightfully charming and I loved it.
It did take me more than my usual time to get through this book, not because I didn’t love it but because it was a slow paced book.
The Bear and the Nightingale was a fascinating, immersive book that really transports you into the world Katherine Arden has created and keeps you entranced. 4 stars.