Rating: 4.5 STARS
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Series/Standalone: Winternight Trilogy #1
How I got this book: Bought
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.
TW: Death, rape, child-marriage, paedophilia, mental health, religion
I finished reading this last night and couldn't wait to write my review.
Unlike the last book I read and reviewed, I had absolutely no trouble rating this one; it was fantastic!
"Sleep is a cousin to death, Vasya. And both are mine."
The Bear and the Nightingale was so much better than I expected it to be, partially because the synopsis hadn't actually won me over and so I wasn't sure whether I'd like it.
Think of this book like a really dark Russian fairytale. It centres around the household of Pyotr Vladimirovich; his three sons and three daughters. The landscape is wintery Russia, and the story begins on a dark, freezing night in mid-winter as four of the six children gather around the fire, listening to an old fairytale about the winter demon, as told by Dunya, their nurse.
I struggled a little at first with the different names for each character, trying to stay wrapped up in the story while getting my head to understand that Sasha, Sashka and Aleksandr were all the same person. But it didn't take long for me to figure it out and fall back under the author's spell.
The writing in this book is beautiful and gripping, and the author paints a gorgeous picture of the wintery Russian landscape, made even more immersive given that I read this while watching the snowfall outside my window.
The masterful storytelling and dark plot held me under its spell from start to finish, and I never wanted to stop reading. But I honestly hadn't expected the book to be so dark. It reminded me a little of The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, which was equally gripping.
In terms of the historical accuracy of the book, i.e. the prejudice, the expectations and superstitions rife at that time, I felt the author captured the period perfectly.
Not long into the book, we meet Vasya, our heroine. Vasya is a headstrong character who I grew to love immediately. Her fire and stubbornness created a character who was instantly compelling, and I truly enjoyed the growth and strength of her character.
This book is filled with characters to love and hate, and the author does another trick that I love in books, where she changes how you feel about certain characters from one point to the next. When we first meet Anna, Vasya's soon-to-be stepmother, we pity and sympathise with her, hoping she'll triumph in the story, but as time passes, she becomes a character almost to despise.
The opposite can almost (but not quite, as he's quite a repulsive character) be said about the priest who comes to live in Vasya's home. When we first meet him, he's a dark, untrustworthy character, but as things befall him, there's a point where he's quite pitiable.
Then we have all the mythical creatures in the book. They're so varied, each having their own purposes and personalities that I could picture them clearly and there were so many times when I just wanted to step between the pages and explore this dark and magical land.
From what felt like an almost subdued beginning, this book grew in intensity until everything came to a crashing climax.
I flew through pages, and after finishing the book, I'm completely ready to continue the story and dive into the second instalment.
"Now here me. Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale."
Overall, The Bear and the Nightingale was one of the best debut novels I've ever read, and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read this book. I'd recommend it to absolutely everyone who enjoys dark, twisted fairytales and monsters, and heroines who defy all expectations.
Never miss a post!
About Kayleigh (She/Her)
Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
About Sophie (She/Her)
Sophie loves books (obviously). She has a passion for photography and spotting wildlife, and is interested in anything made with passion and creativity.
THIS BLOG IS SPOILER FREE!
5 Stars - AMAZING!!
4.5 Stars - Almost perfect!
4 Stars - I really loved it
3.5 Stars - I liked it alot
3 Stars - I liked it
(I don't typically review books that I rate below 3 stars)
Upcoming Blog Tours: