Monday, January 2, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale --by Katherine Arden

Fiction / Fantasy
336 pages
5 Stars

Legalities first: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I found this book delightful and well written. The fact I knew next to nothing about Russian folk tales did not detract at all from my enjoyment of the story. Arden does a masterful job of telling the readers what they need to know. Thanks to Arden's story, I now know a wee bit about Russian folk tales.

True to fairy tales of which I am familiar, the mother dies shortly after childbirth and tasks her faithful servant to raise her daughter. The husband is morose over his wife's death, and basically allows the faithful servant to raise his beautiful daughter, with the help of his older daughters. Vasya is somewhat spoiled, not to mention a tad feral, but in a good sort of way.

Eventually, Papa goes to Moscow and comes home with a new wife who isn't happy being a wife, and stepmother. She was given to Papa as a wife, instead of being allowed into the convent, as she desired. The old priest died, and the new one is a firebrand, more in love with the idea and power of being a priest than in being helpful.

Subplots abound, and Vasya is to be married, but if she's married, how can she save her family and the people of the village? Evil is afoot, and only Vasya holds the key to locking it up again.

The biggest problem I had with the book were all the names and diminutives; however, it was nothing like trying to read Tolstoy. The few times I did get lost, Arden quickly brought me back to where I needed to be, name wise.

Do I recommend this book? Most assuredly. For anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially fairy tales; for anyone who grew up with Snow White and all her cousins; this is the book for you!

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