The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale
Winternight Trilogy, book 1
by Katherine Arden

When her nurse’s fairy tales become her reality, Vasilisa realizes the importance of honoring the household spirits that protect her home from evil.

Part history, part folklore, this book weaves the two together into an enchanting fantasy story. I love a story rooted in fairy tale, and this one definitely captured the magical feeling I would expect from such inspiration. I don’t know a great deal about Russian folklore, but there’s always something so magical and atmospheric about it when I do come across it, and this story was no different.

The beginning did take a little settling into for me. The story within a story is a lovely way to introduce the fairy tale aspect, but I was expecting that part to be a bit bigger than it was, which honestly is on me, and it took me a minute to get my footing once we got into the actual story. There is a slight distant feeling between the reader and the story, which is typical of fairy tales, and can be wonderful when done right (and I do think this one does it right). It’s more atmosphere than action, but I think that’s a fitting way to convey this particular story.

Vasya is an absolute delight, I loved her interactions with the other characters and the spirits. Although she is young throughout the entire novel, we do see her from a wide range of ages, seeing her grow as her life changes along with her siblings’. There are multiple challenges and ‘villains’ that Vasya must deal with. The magic is so well incorporated into the world, when anything new was introduced it felt seamless and never jarring.

A beautiful wintery read, I would definitely recommend this and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.