Release date: January 10, 2017
My rating: 4 out of 5
The Short Of It:
An enchanting story inspired by Russian folklore, though I wished all the action wasn't packed in at the very end.
The Long Of It:
I devoured a handful of novels set in Russia last year and I was anxious to continue the trend with "The Bear and the Nightingale," especially when I saw it compared to one of my favorite 2016 reads, "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik.
Set in the late 1300s in cruel and frigid northern Russia, this tale spun from Russian fairytales is magical and beautifully written. Vasya has always known she can see things that others can't -- the tiny bearded man who lives in the oven and protects the house, the little creature who watches over the horse stables, the temptress in the lake with her flowing green locks. There's also a Frost King, an evil stepmother, talking horses and a priest hell-bent on scaring the village -- and particularly a spirited young woman -- into faith and repentance.
It's a battle between old and new, the mythical and the human, good and evil. Full of spunk and kindness, innately connected to nature, gifted with the ability to see beings most can't, Vasya is the only one who has the power to save her family and her village from a terrible fate.
I really enjoyed "The Bear and the Nightingale," and it made me want to seek out even more books set in historical Russia. The writing was lovely and the story was atmospheric, richly detailed and full of that marvelous fairytale vibe. My only gripe is that it was pretty slow to start and back-heavy, with all the page-turning action coming at the end. So when you're reading, keep that in mind -- it's not a fast-paced novel but the story builds in intensity to a satisfying conclusion.
*I received a free advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.