Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)
by Katherine Arden

Narrated by Kathleen Gati
Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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.



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It took me a little bit to really get into The Bear and the Nightingale, but then I was completely hooked! There's a lot of information at the beginning of the book, which I realize was important for the story as a whole, but it made the first few chapters feel really long. I almost stopped reading it a few times, but I was in love with the mythology and the magic. Despite the dangers it held, there was something enchanting about all of the snow and ice.

There's a large focus on religion, but it wasn't overwhelming. I think the author did a wonderful job balancing people's beliefs with their mythology. The people in this book have lived their entire lives believing in domovoi and banniks, and a single crazed priest manages to challenge everything they've ever known. Arden addresses how fear can make people behave rashly, act in ways you wouldn't expect, and twist the beliefs they've held their entire lives. Fear is a powerful motivator, and it can have very dangerous consequences.

Vasilisa's stepmother was a character I loved to hate. She was cruel to Vasya throughout the book, and punished her physically and psychologically. It was hard to listen to, and I can't image what it must have been like for Vasya to experience. She was alone in a lot of ways, even though she was surrounded by people. I wish her father and brothers had taken her side instead of letting Anna (the stepmother) essentially have free reign. The woman was certifiably insane, and refused to see her gifts as anything but a curse. She saw demons where Vasilisa saw friends and acquaintances. It was all about perspective.

Even though they were silent too often, I enjoyed the family dynamics and thought the siblings had really great relationships. They all loved Vasya, even if they didn't always understand her. Her father wanted the best for her, even if he went about certain things the wrong way. Most of his problems stemmed from Anna and her stupid face. Gah! It's been ages since I've hated a character so much.

The Bear and the Nightingale
is like a train gaining momentum. Once the story is at full speed, the only thing you can do is hang on and see where it takes you. Every small detail is connected in some way, and I really enjoyed seeing how all of the pieces fit together. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series, though I probably won't listen to the audio again. Her accent and pronunciations were amazing, but all of the characters sounded very similar.

36 comments:

  1. This was one of my favorite books this year! I haven't experienced any of the audiobooks for this series, but it sounds like a good one. So glad you loved it :) Great review!

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    1. The audio was okay, but I think I would have preferred reading it for myself. The narrator had a lovely voice, but it all sounded the same. The character's voices sort of blurred together, and you had to really pay attention to keep up with who was speaking. The story itself was great!

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  2. I hadn't heard of this one but it sounds really good.

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    1. I hope you have a chance to read it! The mythology was fascinating, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the books in this series. :)

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  3. Awesome review!! I agree, this book takes a minute to get into, but then it's a great read! I have the second book but I haven't read it yet. I want to read them back to back when the third book comes out :)

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    1. The story starts before she's born, and then we see time pass over the years, so there was a lot of information to get through. I wish she had been given the necklace sooner, but I can understand why they wanted to protect her. There was a lot of relevant information at the start, too, but we needed those details to understand things later on.

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  4. Yay, I’m glad it’s good. I have an ARC of this book, but I still haven’t read it. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. I was so certain this was a "me" book and that I would love it. I rarely read fantasy but the Russian slant was right up my alley. I went from high hopes to DNFing it. *sigh* I'm so glad you ended up loving it despite the slow start. It just wasn't working for me so I moved along. LOL

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    1. I'm sorry this one didn't work for you! Even though I didn't love the audio, it's probably the reason I stuck with this book. I was too lazy to return it to the library and download another. I know it's on an app, but it was just easier to keep listening to the story, haha. After a few chapters, I didn't want to return the book, and I was eager to see what happened next. It was really great once the pacing picked up! Hopefully your next read was a better fit. <3

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  6. I have heard only good things about this one! I really love when stories have all these little connections along the way and when you get to the end you finally see how everything fits together.

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    1. I feel like the story could have been condensed a little, but there was so much relevant information right at the beginning. It started with her mother, then there were things that happened to her and her siblings when they were younger, and then we see how those things impacted their lives later on. It was crazy how everything wove together at the end! :)

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  7. Amazing review! I've been so tempted to read this book but there has always been something keeping me from reading it. Even though all I hear about it is good stuff. >_<

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    1. If you do decide to read it, I recommend giving it a few chapters! It's takes the story a little bit to really get going, but then it's fantastic! I really enjoyed all of the mythology, and that Vasya was able to interact with them. The story was enchanting, the characters were incredibly fleshed out, and I still find myself thinking about it occasionally.

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    2. I'm going to see if I can find it next time I am going into the city. I feel like this will have to be a book I physically read than ebook/audio.
      Ever notice how some books, you can't stand in one form, but devour it in another? Lol

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    3. Yes! I have noticed that! I would recommend a physical copy for this one, because even though the audio was lovely, the characters all sounded the same. I found it hard to distinguish one from the other, but the accents and pronunciations were great! I'm sure I would have butchered some of the words on my own. ;)

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  8. This is one of my favorite series so I'm really happy to see you enjoyed the first installment. I agree that it takes a few chapters to really get hooked, but it really is worth sticking it out. I just finished the final book in the trilogy a couple of weeks ago and it really blew me away.

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    1. I'm happy to hear that! Do the other two books have slow starts, or do they keep a quick pace for the bulk of the book? Also, are the other two books from Vasya's perspective, or someone else?

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  9. I've had friends tell me that this is really slow, but I'm glad to hear that it really picks up! I may have to give this a try after all. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. I wish the beginning had been condensed, but I understood the importance of the information. People were met, stories were told, promises were made, people were married off -- all of it tied together in the end. It was crazy how many threads there were! I hope you have a chance to read this one, and that you enjoy it as much as I did. <3

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  10. I felt the same way, and The Girl in the Tower is way better! 👍✨

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    1. I'm happy to hear that! That's the second book, right? Wasn't the third one published recently, or is it about to be published? I can't remember! Either way, I'm really looking forward to finishing this series. :)

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  11. I really wanted to read this book but I've read a few reviews that also said it takes a while to get into it so I'm waiting for when I'm a "patient" mood :)

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    1. That's a good idea! The story is really enchanting and engaging, but the pacing is super slow at the start. I'm hoping the next book is a little faster, because the last section of the first book was amazing! Pow! ;)

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  12. I'm glad to hear you liked this. Another book that's been on my shelf for years that I hope to read in 2019!

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Haha! My oops-I-forgot-to-read-this list gets bigger every year! ;) I do think this is a book you'll like, if you're in the mood for it.

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  13. I'm always hesitant with books that are slow to get going, I think I'm more of an inpatient reader and expect to be captivated from the first few chapters. I'm really interested in the mythology in this one though. Would you consider it fantasy or more magical realism? It sounds as though there's a lot going on once the storyline picks up. Really curious about this one now Linds and looking forward to giving it a read. Wonderful review darling! <3

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    1. I would probably say magical realism. The Slavic mythology was really interesting, and not something I've seen before. I really enjoyed learning about the culture and their beliefs. It was even more amazing, because Vasya could communicate with them. I'm an impatient reader as well, though I'm happy I stuck with this one. I'm hoping that since this one was full of world-building and character development, the next installment will have a faster pace. We'll see!

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  14. Lovely review! I'm glad you ended up enjoying it despite the slow start :) I only heard great things about this book so far, maybe I'll have to give it a try someday! :)

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    1. I would suggest starting this one while you're reading something else, so you can switch between the two books. You might be less frustrated with the slow pacing if you can take a break every once in awhile. Once the story gets going, it's fantastic! I think the slow pace was a necessary evil, because all of the information we see was relevant later on.

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  15. Wonderful Lindsi. I remember when this books came out it seemed like everyone was reading it. I thought about picking it up, but I wasn't sure if the mythology would interest me. Sometimes it pays off to keep reading after slow beginnings.

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    1. I think the slow start really benefited the story later on, because we see how all of the different details come together. It created a really beautiful picture! I'm just hoping the next book is a little faster with its pacing. I hope you enjoy this one if you decide to read it!

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  16. The first 20% or so was really sloggy, I agree, but like you said... after that it is a page turner. The sequel is even better! I have an eARC of the last book and I'm excited to get to it. 👍✨

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    1. Lucky you! I haven't read the second book yet, so I'm hoping to get to it before the third is published. I'm really looking forward to both! I'm happy to hear the sequel is better. I'm assuming it has a faster pace, since most of the descriptive and informative bits were at the start of this one. I hope you enjoy the conclusion! <3

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  17. I didn't like this book. I thought it had amazing potential, I loved the idea of the mythology and wish it had more plot to it... Anyway I'm glad you could get into it and didn't feel like the religion was too heavy. I did enjoy the end and was glad to see her father FINALLY step up. ❤️

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    1. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, because the beginning is really slow. Very little actually happens, but there's a lot of important information! I'm really glad I stuck with it, because once she's older, things start to happen more quickly. The religion was always present, but I don't think it overwhelmed the story. I think it offered a nice contrast to the mythology, and showed how it impacted the way people thought and felt. It was beautifully written! Yes! Her father FINALLY did something!! :)

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless