A book that I read and fell in love with instantly was The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It is a tale infused with Russian mythology captured brilliantly with great writing. Read our book review and find out why you need to add it to your reading list!
Pyotr Vladimirovich is a Russian boyar, meaning he is the lord of the remote village Lesnaaya Zemlya. The story starts in his house as Dunya, the housekeeper, is telling the story of Morocco, the frost king. Sitting around the nanny are Pyotr, his wife Marina Ivanovna who is the daughter of the grand prince in Moscow, and there four kids Kolya, Sasha, Olga and Alyosha.
After the story ends and the children are fast asleep, Marina tells Pyotr that she pregnant. Marina and Pyotr have been told that Marina won’t survive another pregnancy. But Marina plans to go through with the pregnancy because she believes that this child will have powers that Marina’s mother has possessed. Marina passes away in childbirth as Vasilisa is born, who is given the nickname Vasya.
Vasya is unlike most kids as she can see spirits. And as she acts out, her father remarries. Her new stepmother is not a fan of old rituals and thus, they are stopped. Vasya senses unease as bad events follow suit. As the spirits lose influence, bad spirits gain power and the destruction of the town looms nearer and nearer.
It is up to Vasya to save the town as well as escape from her stepmother’s clutches. Her stepmother wants to marry her off or confine her in a convent. To protect the ones she loves, Vasya must do things that will go against the norm and turn to powers that she has been told to fear all her life.
Growing up in certain areas will leave certain knowledge out of our education. There are a lot of stories in the world and not all of them will find you. But there are always going to be authors that close that gap and build a bridge that you didn’t know you needed. Arden does a wonderful job of writing about Russian folklore that many Americans will never come across otherwise.
Besides the content, Arden writes a wonderful story with a strong protagonist. The setting, the characters and the plot all make this book and the series an amazing read. If I had to pick one book to read, then I would recommend this one because I know exactly how good it is and it will leave me craving for more.