Review #39 // The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

25489134A stranger with odd blue eyes presents Pytor a sapphire necklace as a gift to his youngest daughter, Vasya. Fearing for his daughter, he hides it and watches her grow up to be a wild woman. But as mystical forces threaten her family and village, Vasya is forced to confront the darkness by herself.

Why this book?: I’d read a few reviews that praised this book and compared it to Uprooted. While Uprooted wasn’t my favorite, I wanted to read something just as magical.

I would like to thank the people at Del Rey for allowing me to have an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

Too much exposition

See that summary up there? That didn’t start until about halfway through the book. The length of the exposition was extreme, and I found myself nodding off or vying to read other books when this one was the one I needed to finish. Arden has much knowledge of Russian folklore, which is what this book is heavily based off of, but it was flaunted in all the wrong places, lengthening out things unnecessarily.

The writing style was also wrongly chosen. The story is told like a fire-side tale, setting you apart from the characters but trying to immerse you into the story. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and those few that I cared about were either cast aside or died. It also didn’t help that there was a multitude of names for every single character, ranging just from their names to nicknames to shortened versions of their names to who knows what else. It took forever to wrangle in all the different versions of everyone’s names, when new characters were added at random points, dragging in a whole platoon of varied names with them.

Rich with folklore

That was one of the few things I appreciated about this book. As I said before, Arden obviously knew what she was talking about when it came to the folklore. That’s a wonderful thing, considering that plenty of people go into writing without wanting to deal with all the research that comes with it, and instead makes things up for real life cultures.

There was a lot of love put into this novel. The characters were well thought out, despite being forced to keep them at arm’s-length, and it was obvious that, as a family, they did love each other. The culture and character’s were very good, as well as the writing-but for this type of story, and how Arden structured the timeline, it didn’t work too well.

Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆


While I loved the added folklore and obvious care that went into this book, the extended exposition and the awkward writing really threw me off. I wanted to enjoy this book, and at some points I did, but in the end I was just disappointed.

Would I Recommend?

If you’re into Russian folklore, or stories told like a fairy-tale, then you might like this. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the ending really redeemed the long beginning, but that’s depending on how you see the ending. With this book, it either a hit or a miss, and unfortunately, it was a miss for me.


Additional Information:

Published: Janurary 10th, 2017

Publisher: Del Rey

Page Count: 336

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Synopsis: via Goodreads

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

4 thoughts on “Review #39 // The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

  1. Wonderfully written review! I definitely loved the book but I do understand what you say about the book’s exposition. I oftentimes found myself a bit lost and confused in the story’s premise because it was just so dense with character, description and perhaps unnecessarily overly elaborate language.
    I really enjoy fantasy and folklore which is why I picked up this book along with the beautifully attractive cover. However, for me, it was all a bit over done. I feel as though if the writer would have simplified and maybe toned down the flowery descriptions it could have been a whole lot more enjoyable.
    Anyway, I look forward to more of your posts in the future… Happy Reading! 🙂

    • Thank you!! I definitely agree that that the folklore and fantasy is a huge allure, but that exposition personally killed me. If you happen to choose to read the sequel, let me know! I’m still interested but I don’t want it to be the same as the first. 🙂