The Bear and The Nightingale is part of the Winternight Trilogy and is the first in the series. The second book (The Girl in the Tower) just released in January 2018 and the final book (The Winter of the Witch) is expected to release in August 2018.
It is a fantasy fiction novel, which explores folklore, old magic, and religion (the Church frowns upon any practices or beliefs that aren’t linked to religion). It’s a story about familial love and sacrifices, especially when dark magic threatens to put everyone’s lives in jeopardy.
The characters and the story transport you to Russia. You can feel the Russian winter, the warmth from the oven, and believe that the fairy tales are real. This book is gripping and I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know how the story would unfold. The storyline keeps you on your toes and though you can guess certain motives behind the actions of characters, you can’t guess where the actions will lead the characters. As I was approaching the end of the book, I kept thinking that not enough has happened for the book to end just yet. With the way the book ended, I will definitely be ordering the second book to find out where Vasya’s journey leads her.
My favourite character was Alyosha, who is the protagonist’s (Vasya) brother. He is only a few years older than her, so he was her playmate growing up. Even though Vasya has other siblings and they all love her (and despair of her, at times), Alyosha has her back at all the times and his love and concern for his sister are moving. He believes her and aids her when she turns to him for help. Vasya’s reliance on her brother seems to be of some significance too. His presence in the book isn’t as prevalent, yet he is the one she turns to whenever she is about to take some crucial steps in the story.
The parts I most enjoyed were when Vasya learns to ride and the bond she makes with the horses shortly after. Another gratifying part was when she calls on the household spirits to help and they don’t disappoint, even though the spirits never leave the house. It showed loyalty towards her and a sense of kinship. It renews faith in trust and makes you realise that just because something has not happened in the past, it doesn’t mean that things can’t change for the better.
There were some elements in the book that I didn’t enjoy as much. The credit goes to the author for making me believe in the story and the characters to that level. The book holds strong elements of patriarchy and sexual consent. As a feminist, it was slightly difficult to digest, though they made sense for the time period the book is set in. This is another place where Alyosha leaves his mark. He doesn’t think that Vasya needs to marry until she is ready. You could call him a revolutionary! We can’t forget the protagonist though. Vasya is a strong character and she wouldn’t change herself or stop doing the right thing for anyone. She holds true and fast to her ideals in this aspect and you are helpless to admire her courage in daring to go against the norm. She wants to pave her own path and is inspiration herself. I finished the book wanting to be more daring, hopeful, and courageous as her.
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Del Rey (5 Oct. 2017)
Price: £5.59 (Paperback)