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Publisher: Thorndike Press Large Print$30.99
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"Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can't wait for her next book."--Terry Brooks "The Bear and the Nightingale is a marvelous trip into an ancient Russia where magic is a part of everyday life."--Todd McCaffrey "Enthralling and enchanting--I literally couldn't put it down."--Tamora Pierce
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-04
- Reviewer: Staff
Arden’s debut is an earthy, beautifully written love letter to Russian folklore, with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate in 14th-century Russia. Vasilisa “Vasya” Petrovna’s mother, Marina, died while giving birth to her. Her father, Pyotr Vladimirovich, loves her; he also resents her for his beloved wife’s death. But Marina made Pyotr promise to take good care of Vasya, saying that she was special, and indeed she is. While her father and brothers seek marriage arrangements among royalty in Moscow, Vasya, now a teenager, refuses to be married off; instead she wanders the verdant woods of her father’s rural estate, communing with spirits of home, wood, and water. When a young, arrogant priest is sent to her village, the people turn away from their old ways, and the spirits that keep them safe begin to fade. It’s up to Vasya to protect them, but her father marries Anna, the daughter of Grand Prince Ivan II, who believes the wood spirits are demons and wants to kill Vasya or confine her to a convent as punishment for consorting with them. As a fierce winter storm rages, Vasya must save her family while embracing the magic that lives inside her. The stunning prose (“The blood flung itself out to Vasya’s skin until she could feel every stirring in the air”) forms a fully immersive, unusual, and exciting fairy tale that will enchant readers from the first page. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow and Nesbit. (Jan.)
When folklore proves true
In her first novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden has created a coming-of-age story rooted in folklore, set in the Russian wilderness and surrounded by the magic of winter.
In 14th-century Russia, Vasya is an unusual girl—wild and strong, perceptive and brave—who grew up captivated by her family’s frightening tales and legends. But when Vasya finds the stories to be true, and realizes she has special and coveted abilities, she must protect her family from ancient dangers long believed to be fairy tales.
Arden masterfully portrays the unbridled freedom of her young heroine, as ominous forces loom and the tension heightens between the old ways of the village and the new official religion of Orthodox Christianity. Vasya and her family live in a world of beeswax and wine, of warm ovens and deep sleep, described in gorgeous and lyrical prose. At the novel’s core lies a wonderfully woven family tapestry, with generations of sibling friendship, ancestral insight and marital love.
Arden, who has a B.A. in French and Russian literature, spent a year living and studying in Moscow, and her background in Russian culture delivers an added layer of authenticity. She includes a note concerning her transliteration process and a glossary of terms at the end, lending more context to this textured, remarkable blend of history and fantasy.
A commanding opening of an enchanting new series, The Bear and the Nightingale is a must-read for lovers of history, fairy tales and whirlwind adventures. With an unforgettable setting and an exceptional female protagonist, this literary fantasy is a spellbinding winter read.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Katherine Arden.