The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

OK, enough navel gazing about blogging, how about some book reviews?

Regular readers will be aware of my interest in folklore, fairy tales and fiction dealing with faith and/or religion.  The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden touches on all of these elements which piqued my interest when it was released.  I had it on the To Be Read list for some time. I didn’t buy it, however, as I was unsure it would suit my tastes despite the subjects above.  Last year I was able to listen to the audiobook via Overdrive.  I recently listened to the sequel, The Girl in the Tower, and figured I should post a review.

I found it to be a fascinating and enchanting listen; a truly epic tale of life in the north where magic and religion still live side by side. I don’t know enough about the Russian fairy tales and legends to know how closely this tracks with them, but I found it engrossing and suspenseful; full of history, family life, religious conflict and fantastical folklore.

Vasilisa is a great character and her unique personality and gifts really drive the novel.  Arden does a great job describing the unique setting and building her characters.  She builds the tension and even as she paints this wonderful and complex picture of the world of Russian wilderness.

It has a fairly strong feminist streak, the main protagonist’s goal is both to protect her family and escape the role society expects of her. It also has an element that seems anti-religion. But no matter your opinion on these topics or others, it is wonderful written and highly entertaining.

Kathleen Gati does a great job with the narration.  She really helped to bring the characters alive and is just right with the tone, pace, etc.  It is an audiobook it is easy to lose yourself in. And those are the best kind.

I usually avoid historical fiction but this one is in a time period I am not very familiar with and the folklore/magical elements give it a different feel. Recommended for sure.


The Bear and the Nightingale Book Cover The Bear and the Nightingale
Winternight Trilogy
Katherine Arden
Del Rey Books
January 10, 2017

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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