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Historical Fantasy Audiobook Review: The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #1)


Synopsis from Goodreads
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | Audible US/UK | Book Depository


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 There are two books which left me completely satisfied with their portrayal of Russian fairytales by non-native writers in recent years. One is Deathless by Catherynne M.Valente, another one is The Bear and The Nightingale.

Miss Arden expertly blends post-Ivan the Terrible historical period with the fairytales I grew up with. It's a charmed listen steeped in the same darkness and urgency I felt reading Naomi Novik books, and what's most important for a Russian reader, it rings true. All the little details, all the non-butchered little names, the correct pronunciation and the rightfully respectful address, it was a pleasure to listen to. I was transported with the expert narration right from the beginning.

Anyone curious about Russian history and mythology, this is what I grew up with. Upyri, domovye, rusalki, leshye, vodyanue and many many other strange and wonderful creatures.

Vasilisa is an odd, precarious, wild child, she doesn't fit into the mould of her time. She has powers from birth, but no one around to guide her, so she can only stumble on bits of knowledge and understand intuitively how to use it. All she wants is to protect her little world, her family and creatures around her, but the outside forces make it more and more difficult with each year until she is bleeding and exhausted and wasted away.

The supporting characters are powerful as well. Her stepmother Anna is not a classic evil hag, but she is moulded into one by her fragile mind and her fears. The priest with his own strange powers might have started his life with the right intention, but his fanaticism made him into a sinister, dark figure. Even Dounyasha, Vasya's nanny does the girl harm out of misguided desire to save her.

 This book has powerful images, wonderful narration and it's just so damn beautiful and richly atmospheric. I absolutely loved it. If you are a fan of Naomi Novik, don't hesitate to get it. The audio is superb. I am happy there are two more books in the series, and it's only a matter of time before I pick them up. Thank you, Betsy, my bookish sister, for recommending this to me.

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 Мои хорошие, ну прям не книга была, а песня! Удивительно, что это второй не русскоязычный писатель, что успешно смог передать наш русский дух в своей прозе, да так что мне не хотелось что-то критиковать и кривиться. Первой была много лет назад Кэтрин М. Валент со своим Бессмертным, а второй оказалась Кэтрин Ардэн.

На аудио это безумно атмосферная книга, акценты, интонации, специфика речи, правильное обращение друг к другу. Исторический период после Ивана Грозного, религиозность, то, что женщины должны быть кроткими и смиренными, все, все передано правильно.

Висилиса растет на севери Руси в глуши диким, вольным, странным ребенком, которому передался дар умершей матери, но учить этот дар ей использовать некому.  Она учится на шишках и ушибах сама, по необходимости, общаясь с лешими, домовыми, русалками и прочими духами, которыми так пропитана наша мифология. Тут вам и Морозко и кивок в сторону сказки с подснежниками и охота на упыря. Все так мрачно и дико и прекрасно, аж слушала с ностальгией.

Второстепенные персонажи тоже сильные. Анна - ее мачеха, не начинает жизнь как плохой человек, но со временем как будто по законам сказки превращается в типичный архетип мачехи, пытающейся Васю убить. Священник со странным даром, тоже может начал свою службу с правильными намерениями, но постепенно превращается в зловещего фанатика, который непоколебимо уверен в своих истинах. 

Книга эта неодносложная и очень напоминает мне по духу книги Наоми Новик, так что если вы ее фанат, читайте Медведя и Соловья без колебаний. Вам понравится. Я очень благодарна книжной подруге, посоветовавшей мне эту книгу. Спасибо, Бетси! Читайте или слушайте, друзья! На аудио очень хорошо получилось. 
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