39. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This book has been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a year. I got it into my head that I didn’t want to read it until the entire trilogy was out so that I could read them back to back. I had heard a lot of great things about this story and couldn’t wait to read it.

Synopsis (as taken from the back of the book) is as follows:

Beware the evil in the woods…

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, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods.

Ability to read – Here’s where my dislike for ‘hype’ comes into play. So many people had raved about this book and gushed that I should read it that I walked into it thinking that it would be amazing. This book is divided into three parts. I found the first part so difficult to read that I almost gave up on the book completely. Not only does it shift pov’s but also time and place. I would be reading in one paragraph about Vasya as a child and in the next paragraph she’d be in her late teens. With no smooth transition it was a little alarming and made reading it more difficult to achieve. I really struggled to understand what was happening and who the main players were. By part two I was slowly getting into the book and by the end I was enjoying myself but it was slow going and played on all my weaknesses. I am now reluctant to read the following two books of the trilogy in case they present the same problem – but I will read them at some point.

Characterisation – Vasya was an interesting character to read about and definitely a character who is easy to get behind from the first couple of chapters. It is Vasya’s story that made me stay with the book and wet my appetite in terms of wanting to know her story and what will happen to her/around her.

Visualisation – For the first part of the story, I had no visual image of what was happening. I couldn’t pick any one moment that stood out to me and made me think one way or another. As my interest in the book picked up during part two, it was then that my imagination started to come alive and I was able to visualise what was happening and let it carry me through the story.

Uniqueness – I thought this story was very interesting. There have been many retelling’s of fairy-tales over the years and many more of folklore, myths, magic and legends. I felt that I was reading something genuinely unique while reading this, despite the difficulty I had while reading, the plot was different from anything I’ve read before and was something new for me to devour. I am interested to see where Vasya’s journey takes her over the course of the next two books.

Hannah xoxo

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