The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden (Review)

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale 
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: Del Rey (Random House), 2017 (Jan 10)
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

**I received a copy of this book free from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

This review can be found on my BlogTeacherofYA’s Tumblr, or my Goodreads page

My Review:

I was trying to find a bigger cover image, because I absolutely love this cover! But this is the biggest I could find. Sigh…it’s so pretty and mysterious. And it comes out TODAY!

I don’t know if I’ve read a book I’ve liked this much in awhile. This story was amazing and beautiful and it kept my attention the entire time.

But let’s get on with the plot…and I probably won’t do it justice because a LOT happens in this story. 

Pyotr Vladimirovich and his wife, Marina, love each other very much. They live in the woods, away from the large Metropolitan area of Moscow, and they have several children. They are extremely happy. When Marina tells Pyotr that she is pregnant, he worries for his small, frail wife: the winters are harsh in Rus’ and she is older than most of child-bearing age. But Marina insists that this child is important. As Marina insists, “I want a child like my mother.”

Marina’s mother had gifts that her other children do not have. Marina knows her child will have them. And she sacrifices her life for little Vasilisa’s, aka Vasya’s life. As she grows, she becomes wild and runs around the forest. Eventually, Pyotr realizes that he must wed again, though he still misses and loves his departed wife. He marries Anna, daughter of a powerful man, in exchange for marrying his oldest daughter to his son. But Anna sees demons and isn’t really mother material.

As Vasya grows, she grows wild and striking, but not beautiful. She communes with the spirits of the forest and the home, and gives them food and spirits. But soon, a priest comes to Vasya’s home: a priest who sees the young and wild Vasya and wants to tame her. He instills fear into the townspeople and they stop giving sacrifices to the sprites in the home. This sets off a chain of events that involves the Winter-king Morozko, and it awakens the Bear, the embodiment of fear and death.

Can a young spirited girl save the spirits and keep the old ways alive? Or will the priest frighten the people so much that doom will fall on the village, the people, and Vasya’s family? 

In a story rich with folklore and magic, Arden weaves an original narrative that reads like a fairy tale. Beautiful and mystical, Vasya is a wilderness princess that I rooted for until the end. 

Is It Classroom-Appropriate?

Yes yes yes! I plan to get a physical copy of this book however I can. This book would be great for the classroom. Though not technically “historical fiction” according to some, I feel the Russian references and folklore would be great to use in the classroom, and the narrative itself is strong and would bring up great discussions. It would be interesting to talk about the differences in the culture and the time period, along with the ideas of beauty and wealth. 

I can already picture lesson plans in my head! I love all the material that can be used in this book!

Age Range:

Honestly, I know this isn’t a YA book, but I can see readers of all ages enjoy this. It’s not a hard read…however, it is long. It is textually rich and filled with plot. I would say the minimum age for the best comprehension would be 12 and up, and that’s also if the 12 year old is an advanced reader. If not, then at least 14 so the reader can follow all the developments as the story spans years and every bit is important to the story. Fortunately, there’s nothing at ALL inappropriate so for this book, age is less important than reading level. 

I’m actually not surprised that some classify this book as YA. When I go into reading an adult book, I ready myself for a different kind of “tone” to the book. This book did not have that tone. I can’t describe it. I’m just in love with this story! 

End Result:

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a big fan of The Bear and the Nightingale. I added it to my favorited shelf. I even began to tear up at a certain part…which I won’t go into because it would be a major spoiler. I loved the whole book and never got bored, therefore I give this book ★★★★★, or…

I will end with some beautiful graphics from the publisher…I wish I could include all of them, but that would be a little cluttered and obsessive.

Happy Reading, y’all! Better check this one out if you haven’t yet: I recommend to EVERYONE!

66 thoughts on “The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden (Review)

  1. Georgiana Darcy

    I’ve talked about this before but I’m super worried about reading this book because of culture appropriation. I am Russian and obviously I will see every little details in the book as such.
    In my experience, the majority of books based on or referencing to Russian culture/folklore is far from the truth. They mess it up in an ugly way, in fact. I mean, most people wouldn’t even know if whatever is said is a well research data or misappropriation or deformation of that data.
    So yeah, I want to read it but I am really scared for this to turn out to be another one of those offensive novels. Fingers crossed though!
    That being said, I would think twice getting a physical copy for class. But again, I might be wrong and the novel might be a breakthrough of American authors in utilizing Russian folklore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a section in the back where she talks about this very topic! If you come across a physical copy, maybe you can see (since I’m no expert) if she did it any justice or if she did misrepresent anything. I’m only Russian by name…my last name has roots that go back to that part of the world, but I would not know the first thing about the culture, unfortunately. I think it’s great that you have roots like that and a culture. And I’d hate for you to read this and have it be offensive!
      I’m completely in the dark on this one. But I really appreciate you letting me know so that I can be aware of the possible problems of the book. 😊
      If you do read this, let me know what you think: I’d like to know before ever using it in the classroom. 😘

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Georgiana Darcy

        Really? That’s great! I’m happy she included a section like that in the book! Not many authors do something similar.
        I will definitely let you know if I read it (and I probably will just to make sure the novel serves its hype).

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Excellent. Thank you! I’d love to know your thoughts about it. Thank you for letting me know about this…it’s very important before ever using a book in a teaching setting to get this information! 😊😘


  2. Annie

    The moment has arrived… I’ve read a book that you read too!
    Bad news is… I didn’t really enjoy it XD I thought it was a super beautiful book, but it was not my type of read… Actually, I love this kind of stories, but in movies. In books I don’t have so much patience haha It’s weird!

    So glad you loved it ❤ I could see the potential!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, it happens! At least we both read the same book!!
      That’s pretty rare in itself!
      I think this would make an excellent movie, though. And most people would like it on the screen.
      I just think it’s fab you tried it, especially since it’s outside your genre: I’ll be reading a contemporary book and I’m nervous about it myself!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was excited to see you review this. I am so kicking myself for not having requested this one. After Vassa in the Night, I fell in love with this Russian Folklore. And then I read Gretchen and Lilly’s reviews (and now yours) and just know this is for me. I thrilled it did not disappoint. Soon ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey…don’t kick yourself! You’ll get a sore butt! 😂🤣😊
      You’ll love it. I have yet to see a bad review. Annie didn’t like it, but she doesn’t really like folklore. Gosh, I hope we aren’t overhyping it and then you’ll be disappointed.
      Let’s try this:
      “It was meh. You’ll have to read it to see if you like it because I didn’t care either way.”
      Now you’ll have a blank slate as long as you don’t read ANY MORE REVIEWS!
      You’re welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Awesome review!!! I looooooved this one so much as well! On Goodreads, someone had asked the author about the Genre because Vasya is an adolescent. The author stated that she really didn’t know what Genre it fit into but it was placed into Adult because of the themes, she also stated that this can be read throughout all ages. So I’m happy you placed that in your review as well. This was a great debut novel =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was! I’m glad you liked it too (I saw your review). I think we have excellent taste in books. 😂
      I hope she continues writing because I think this is one of my all-time faves! And yes, I think it straddles the line of YA and adult…I see nothing keeping it from being labeled as such, you know?
      Once again, thank you for Roseblood. AG felt bad about me losing all the giveaways so she sent me a “swag pack” which is just basically some signed bookmarks, but it was a nice gesture. I told her about what you did, and she said I should bake you cookies! 🍪 🍪

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you!! I love being tagged!! I’ll have to check it out!
      I have 800 plus blog posts to go through and it is taking me forever! I have literally nothing to do so I’m trying to get them down to a smaller number (I like to read as many of people’s posts as I can: you read mine so I like to read yours!)
      Thank you! 😊😊😊


  5. Great review for this book Stephanie. I seem to be seeing this one everywhere and although I’m not sure if it’s been released in the UK earlier or something but I could have sworn I’d seen it in my local Waterstones. Still I could be wrong. Either way I saw another rave review for this book and added it to my to-read list, and now reading yours has just made me all the more desperate to get my hands on it as soon as possible.
    I love the sound of the writing and the fact that it creates such a rich story. Also the gorgeous cover doesn’t hurt, and I feel the fact that you loved it means I’m guaranteed to as well! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You will love this one! I can practically guarantee it. Some people consider it magical realism according to their reviews, but I think of it more as historical fiction with fantasy elements. Totally a fairy tale type story. Some people have it listed as a retelling…but a retelling of what, I have no idea.
      People say if you liked Vaasa, you’ll love this. Well, you know how I felt about Vaasa…this isn’t even in the same category! Vassa cannot compare to this!
      Put this on your TBR (I hope I’m not overhyping it, but I feel pretty good about the rec).
      I can’t wait for you to read this one!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I do love magical realism, and I definitely love fantasy as well as fairytale retellings so I guess whatever genre this book falls under I’m bound to love it!
        I also loved Vassa so hopefully if you liked this one even more that’s a good sign isn’t it! 😀
        I’ll try and get started on it soon so we can fangirl over it together. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely loved this one too!! I think it will probably stay on top of my favorites for 2017. I did think the marital rape bits, while not graphic, eliminated a lot of younger readers but maybe that’s just my own personal lens coming into play. Like is that too much for a 13-15 year old to think over? I’ve been out of school for a long time, maybe I’m not giving students enough credit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know…I never thought of it as graphic in that way. It was believed back then to be “acceptable” to be with your wife, so it would still be considered a topic of conversation if anyone was bothered by it. I honestly completely forgot about it, because all it said was she always cried. It’s obvious she was very unhappy being married when all she wanted was a life in a convent. But good point to bring up. Sometimes there’s just so much material in a book that you forget some of it.
      I’m glad you loved the book, too! Def one of my faves and on my GR favorites shelf! 😊


      1. I addressed this a bit in my review…I agree that the time period in which the story takes place is relevant – no one, not even women themselves usually, thought of a woman as anything other than completely subservient to her husband. I get that, but I was still bothered by how Pyotr, for all his kindness, never thought twice about forcing her or beating his children! Ack. I still feel like he is a sympathetic, good character, but….yeah. Issues. Hehe.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The more I think about it, the more I realize that you make a good point. I should probably put in a note about that in the review, as I have a diff personal lens than others and should be more aware of things like that.
      Thank you for reminding me of that aspect of the book!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like the review!
      This is one of the best books I’ve read this year! You cannot go wrong with this one. I’d be so surprised if someone didn’t like this book.
      I’ll be eagerly waiting to see what you think!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. How nice is that?? I love our blogger friends!
      Books Vertigo and Tea offered to lend me Caraval when she’s done with it, so I think this is a great thing we bloggers do!
      I hope you like it…but I would genuinely be surprised if you didn’t. It’s truly well-written. (I’m so worried about overhyping this book but it is one of my favorite books now!)


  7. This books sounds like it has a LOT going on, but it sounds like the author handled her plot extremely well. The story is unlike no other I’ve heard of or read before, and I’m also very interested in all types of folklore, so I’m really curious about it. I think I might like to add this one to my TBR. Plus, I’d love to have that cover on my shelves. Great review, Stephanie! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank You! It does have a gorgeous cover…I’m reading a lot of pretty books lately, it seems!
      The story is excellent and I would love to own a physical copy just to have on my shelf. This new author Is great and I hope there’s more coming out by her.
      I hope you love it as much as I did!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Christy Luis

        I liked parts of it. Unfortunately, I had some issues with the human-drama parts; but the fairy tale aspects…oh my. Really lovely stuff! I hope we can still be twins ^.^

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t fall for the cover of this book as you did. But I am regretting now that I didn’t request for this book because your glowing review makes me think like I’m missing out on a good book. Hopefully Overdrive will have it later. Excellent review Stephanie! You got me excited for some forklore reading!! hehehe..

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Nice review! I am interested in the book now, and this is the first time I have heard of it 😀 (I hope that is not a bad thing). Still, it seems like I’d need a few background knowledge of the Russian culture before reading… Any idea where to acquire them..?


    1. Hmmm…honestly I don’t. This one does have a glossary in the back (which would’ve helped me if I had known about it before I finished the book, lol!), so I don’t think you’ll have trouble with this one. When I read Vassa in the Night, I looked up the Russian fairy tale Baba Yaga. Russian fairy tales will help a lot, and that’s as easy as a simple search query on google!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good to know about the glossary 🙂

        Got it! I will certainly look into a number of Russian fairy tales before possibly reading this in the future.

        Thank you for your response and assistance, much appreciated 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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