“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”
– Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale
There are two types of fairytales in my honest opinion; one that draws you to wish upon the star hoping your dream of having that true love’s kiss do come true, and the other kind that provokes your innermost fears enough to keep you awake and all five senses always on guard. This book introduced me to the latter.
I find that this story is reminiscent of the fairytales we grew up loving, but personalized by Russia’s own fairytales and folklores and it’s rich culture. This book is full of blithe imagery of the bitter cold Russian landscape where our stubborn but strong willed protagonist, Vasya, lived with her family. I fell in love with her immediately, intirely fell in love with her and her abilities to see and feel spirits and beings others cannot. To meet characters that are new to my fairytale vocabulary was the gift of this book.
But, what is a fairytale without its villains. When Vasya’s father ruturned with a new wife, and a priest came to their town, their way of life was disrupted, putting a challenging impression to their beliefs and ethnology.
I loved the premise of the book. The story telling was superb and the first part I found really atmospheric and fetching. But, as I went deeper into the story, I found myself in an unfamiliar terrain and couldn’t retract my steps back to my point of origin. I regret that I couldn’t further get into sync with the flow of the story and I regret that I am giving it a three star read.
But, if you’re looking for Russian mythology, folklore read, I still recommend this book.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey-322 pages