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The Bear and the Nightingale is a magical Russian fairy-tale of a novel, a gorgeous Ivan Bilibin illustration come to life. There are rusalkas, upyrs, and domovoi, the supernatural creatures of Russian folk-tales; Tsars and boyars, priests and peasants, the traditional inhabitants of medieval Russian tales; and there are bears and wolves and snow and unrelenting winter that in an instant evoke Russia for us in our imaginations. Then there is Vasya, the heroine of the tale, whose courage and resourcefulness when facing family troubles, natural disasters, courtly intrigues, mad monks, and a deep, implacable magical evil make the fairy tale real and immediate. Author Katherine Arden has written the best of books: a book which we never knew we wanted, and now can't live without. The Bear and the Nightingale is orginal, brilliant, and wonderful. My highest recommendation.
— From David's Diamonds
Katherine Arden's bestselling debut novel spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice. "A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up."--Naomi Novik, bestselling author of Uprooted
Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse's fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.
Then Vasya's widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya's stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village.
But Vasya's stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village's defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed--to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse's most frightening tales. Praise for The Bear and the Nightingale
"Arden's debut novel has the cadence of a beautiful fairy tale but is darker and more lyrical."--The Washington Post
"Vasya is] a clever, stalwart girl determined to forge her own path in a time when women had few choices."--The Christian Science Monitor
"Stunning . . . will enchant readers from the first page. . . . with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Utterly bewitching . . . a lush narrative . . . an immersive, earthy story of folk magic, faith, and hubris, peopled with vivid, dynamic characters, particularly clever, brave Vasya, who outsmarts men and demons alike to save her family."--Booklist (starred review)
"An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . The Bear and the Nightingale
is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic."--Robin Hobb
"Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale
tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can't wait for her next book."--Terry Brooks