BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine Arden

BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine ArdenThe Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1)
by Katherine Arden
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

“Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale.”

I think it’s fairly safe to say that I trust my older friends and those that know me well to guide me in this world of one billion books, but that doesn’t mean everything always fits. Example: This book. I have seen so many reviewers say how strongly they love this and I have remained interested since I first saw this hauntingly beautiful cover. I started it months ago, loved the first few lines, but knew it was a book better suited for a totally different mood.

“I had to,” Vasya rejoined. Blackness darted suddenly before her eyes. Her brief flare of strength was fading fast. “They were going to send me to a convent. I decided I would rather freeze in a snowbank.” Her skin shivered all over. “Well, that was before I began to freeze in a snowbank. It hurts.”
“Yes,” said Morozko. “Yes, it does.”

Fast forward to this week and I just got a feeling this was THE book I needed right now. I am still in my Diviners funk, or at least I was when I started this novel, and needed something to snap me right out of it. Snap it did, for I have been able to move on! I just wish I’d have loved this one more.

Vasya rose in silence, letting her blanket fall. The cold air sank fangs into her flesh. She crept to the stable door. There was no moon, and fat clouds smothered the stars. The snow was still falling.

It had all the makings of books I adore: Beautiful story-telling, amazing prose, and an anti-hero (or is he a hero? I don’t know) that was wonderful to love. I fell so hard for the beginning-how beautiful. Really. I will likely never forget that first line that struck a chord with me, both when I started it months ago and this week when I read it. Sometimes a book just fits your mood.

“If God gives me strength, I will save you.”
“I am only a country girl,” said Vasya. She reached again into the blackberry bush, wary of thorns. “I have never seen Tsargrad, or angels, or heard the voice of God. But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.”

But then a certain character, or TWO, brought religion into the mix-heavily-and it strongly disjointed the bridge between the fantastic beginning I so loved and adored, and the end that somewhat redeemed the novel for me. But, frankly, nothing can erase the horrors we had to go though to get to what I longed for in the story. I don’t like animal massacre, I don’t like children dying, I don’t like putting myself in the place of the mothers wailing and begging, and I don’t like righteous religion sprinkled throughout, even if our main characters aren’t a part of it.

It was just too much, for me, and I didn’t want to deal with it. And to have to wait for the Frost Demon to make a large appearance until the end? It was all just too much-it’s as simple as that. Call me transparent. Call me shallow. Call me what you will-it doesn’t make me love this book…nor will it keep me from reading the second.

That may seem silly to some-if there wasn’t enough to love about the first to move on, then why move on? Well, that’s just it-There was enough…just enough. Like that beginning. Like the gorgeous atmosphere that painted a picture before my eyes and made me long to be there, breathing in the crisp snow and bundling up by the fire. It wasn’t all bad. There’s more than even The Frost Demon. I liked this author’s story-telling. Why else would I have finished, even when I felt bad most of the time?

So, would I say this was a slam-dunk? A home-run? It didn’t knock it out of the park, but I have it on good authority that there’s more to the story and I need to stick it out-that I’ll even want the hardbacks, in the end. So I forge on, just hoping that I don’t have to be miserable to get through this next story.

OH! And I think it’s worth mentioning that this book is actually kind of scary, at times. Atmospheric, yes, but creepy-like I was there. I didn’t expect that, because no one told me nor did I ever see it in a review. I think it’s worth saying, because there are a lot of people like me who don’t know that before going in. And I understand Russian folklore is darker…but I suppose I didn’t know just how dark. Just a warning.

********

Yeahhhhhhh…. this face about sums up the summary of my reading experience. My feelings about this book are vast-for I LOVED the beginning, hated the middle, and I have no clue what to say about the end other than we finally got more Frost Demon (yes please) and I love him to pieces.

Child deaths. Mothers wailing and frantically grasping for their children not to be taken away and buried. Mutilated animals. Anddddd apparently it’s creepy as well??? Dead bodies coming to life and scratching on the door? Sharp teeth, black eyes, and dripping black blood from the mouth? WTF.

SO. To sum up: Chelsea hated the trigger-happiness of this novel. Chelsea did not like the turn of events from atmospheric, wonderful, and intriguing to dark, deadly, and religious. Chelsea loved the Frost Demon. Chelsea heard TFD is well worth it if you continue on and this plague of a book leads into something far greater. Chelsea will read book two. For The Frost Demon, that is.

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7 Comments

  1. Great review, as always. I’ll wait to see how the rest of the series pans out for you before I put this one on my TBR. I love that you were drawn into the atmosphere, though. That’s not easily done and gives me high hopes that it gets better.

    • Chelsea (Peril Please)

      February 7, 2019 at 11:51 am

      Oh, I’ve actually been done with this series since, like, beginning of December lol. I got the third ARC (because the second book was a big trigger fest for me, but I loved almost all of it) and three made me rage, again, with triggers…but, overall, it’s a strong series, even if I want to burn them. And cherish them, too. I don’t honestly know how I feel-just depends on my mood that day. Also, I was behind on reviews because I had an ER appendix removal Nov 30, so that’s why I’m so behind on all my reviews. Most of the books I’m posting reviews on I’ve read were done months ago lol.

  2. Great honest review! I enjoyed reading this booK! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as you hoped! I haven’t read the second yet but I really hope it works out for you! 🙂
    Raven recently posted…Monthly Wrap-Up | January [2019]My Profile

    • Chelsea (Peril Please)

      February 7, 2019 at 11:54 am

      It was okay. I read it in November, just behind because of my random surgery! I actually finished them all-they were okay, as a whole, but very triggerish for me, and I found them to be OTT in that way. But I loved lots of parts in them. Just sucks she had to ‘go there’ for some things.

  3. I listened to the audio for this one and almost didn’t make it through to the end! I ended up really enjoying the story, but the beginning was incredibly slow. There’s a lot of world-building, new mythology, and various conflicts introduced. Also, those two people wouldn’t happen to be her stepmother and the new priest, hmm? Because they were the absolute worst! I also wish her father had protected her more, and been there for her when she was struggling.

    It took forever and ever for the pace to pick up, and I didn’t really start loving it until the guy/snow demon/cannot remember what he was called was reintroduced at the end. I thought there interactions, and that of her horse/nightingale were some of the best moments. The end really redeemed the book for me, and I’m hoping the second one has a faster pace.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

    • Chelsea (Peril Please)

      February 7, 2019 at 11:58 am

      Did you ever read the second? It’s EONS better than this one-I finished the whole series beginning of December, but I’m very behind posting these because I had have emergency surgery-I’m just now catching up lol

      Basically it’s all trigger happy for me….but Morozko and Solovey are why I loved many parts of books 2 and 3-despite my raging tears.

      Hope you got a chance to read the other two and loved them! 🙂 (and yes, duh, those two people just make me rage)

    • Not yet! It’s on my to-do list for this year. I’m so happy to hear they’re better! Sorry about your medical/surgery stuff — no fun! Did you at least get to read a lot during recovery?
      Lindsi recently posted…My Weekly Pull [56] & Can’t Wait Wednesday [26]My Profile

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