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.
The Bear and the Nightingale (The Bear and the Nightingale, #1)Featured
Vasya is a wild and untamed child much to her father’s dismay; her father feels that what Vasya really needs is a new mother. However Vasya is no ordinary child simply playing games with imaginary friends, in fact Vasya has inheritied the gift of ‘sight’ from her Grandmother. Russian fairy-tales are told to naughty children but little do they know these magical creatures are actually real and with a spirited Vasya able to see them, she’s soon able to explore magic and wonder just what other powers she may have. But when a rumor spreads that the evil Bear from the woods may be awakening at long last, who will be able to save Vasya’s village from the darkness that people refuse to believe is real?
The Bear and the Nightingale takes place over a number of years, you are able to actually watch Vasya grow into a young woman and see how Arden weaves Russian folklore into the plot. I felt that the plot was maybe a little too slow however Arden has such a lyrical way of writing that you don’t find yourself bored but merely eager for what happens next. And Arden certainly does deliver when she introduces the Frost-Demon who has a magical necklace for Vasya.
The last 100 pages of the book are the best, it felt as if the book was only just beginning, the pace picks up, Vasya and her magic become the focus and you get a much clearer picture of what Arden has is stores for her readers. This book is part of a series and I have no doubt that book two will grip readers from the start.
The Bear and the Nightingale is a truly stunning read with a focus of Russian folklore and fantasy fans are in for a real treat.