Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Book Title: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author Katherine Arden

Published: 2017


What’s it about? 

This is a tale set in medieval Russia in the north of the country where the winter blows through cold and harsh. Vasya, the main character has grown up in a small village surrounded by stories of magic and sorcery and creatures and beasts that lurk in the shadows. But for Vasya, these are more than just tales…they are real. Soon Vasya finds herself caught up in a storm of dark magic threatening her family and she is the only one with the power to save them.

My Thoughts…

Like most children, it was listening to my mum read me fairytales at bedtime which spawned my love of reading (and writing). I can still picture the giant book of classics like Sleeping Beauty, Rumplestiltskin, Bluebeard and the rest that I would pour over for hours on end. When we get older we are told, and convince ourselves, that we’re “far too old” for fairytales.

I’ve always thought that such a shame.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a beautifully written novel based around Russian myths and folklore which is unlike any of our typical well-known tales but twice as enchanting. The book begins with the servant of the main protagonist’s family, telling the household a Russian fairytale. I thought this was a perfect opening as it sucked me in instantly, making me feel like a child at bedtime again. But as the story goes on you realise this isn’t your average fairytale. Its got a much deeper, darker side to it which also appealed to the adult me.

I really loved Vasya. As the main character, she’s wild and fearless, if not ever so slightly stubborn. Even when everyone around her is against her, she sticks to her beliefs no matter what and I immediately felt a lot of respect for her. I wanted her to succeed the whole way through and this kept me reading on page after page.

I must admit, not knowing very much about Russian folklore meant that at first the words and names throughout the first couple chapters were a little confusing and it was only once I had finished the book that I realised that Arden had included a glossary to the back pages. This was so interesting to read once I had finished the book and I liked that it was at the back because otherwise I think had I known about it, it would have kept dragging me away from the story itself, but it’s definitely something to look out for if you need it!


I loved this book. It has me curled up, comfy and relaxed under my blanket and on the edge of my seat all at once. It is a beautiful absorbing tale of bravery, loyalty, love and betrayal…the perfect fairytale!

It’s also worth mentioning that this is book one of a Trilogy! The second book, The Girl in the Tower is available now and the third book, The Winter of the Witch is out early 2019!




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