The Bear and the Nightingale was one of my more anticipated reads for the year. As someone who loves historical fiction and fairytale retellings, I was really excited to see Arden’s take on Russian folklore. The only Russian story that I was familiar with was that of Baba Yaga, so I was really excited to learn more about Frost – and the darkness in that tale did not disappoint.
I still can’t believe that The Bear and the Nightingale is a debut; Katherine Arden’s writing was stunning. This writing coupled with the gorgeous wintery setting created an absolutely atmospheric read.
The Bear and the Nightingale was also home to an excellent cast of characters. I loved watching Vasya grow from a precocious young girl to a courageous (though still rebellious and sassy) young woman. I loved how she stayed true to herself and her desires, even if they were contrary to what was expected of women at the time. Even the secondary characters were sympathetic and well-fleshed out – Vasya’s stepmother was so much more than the “evil stepmother” trope, making for a truly compelling villain.
I’ll admit that I was unaware that The Bear and the Nightingale was the first book in a new trilogy; as such, plot threads that initially seemed irrelevant (namely the ones involving Vasya’s siblings moving to Moscow) made the story feel slow at times.
Overall, The Bear and the Nightingale was a beautifully written, Russian-inspired story that perfectly set up a new trilogy. I’m excited to give The Girl in the Tower a read!