Original title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Edition Language: English
Series: Winternight Trilogy #1
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.
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.
My expectations of the book were really high. That, I guess, spoiled the reading. For those who knows nothing of Russia, its history, religion and popular belief this book will open an entire new world with magical creatures and folk stories. I was a bit amused but not overwhelmed by it. For me it was rather slow narration with a lot of side characters, whose sorties were not developed into something interesting.
We follow the girl who has some magic powers, not like Harry Potter magic, but down to earth magic. She is growing up in a loving family and she is looking for her place in the world, which has no other role for women apart from being a mother and a subordinate of her man. That coming of age aspect I really enjoyed and family dynamics are great.
What I did not like, I guess, is the whole aspect of the evil and the final battle to which the whole book was leading, it was kind of rushed and too convenient.
It was not the strongest book, but it was a good beginning of a series, as for most people all that description of land, habits and religious conflicts were needed to be explained, as Arden chose quite specific and not wildly known period of time in Russian history. I can see the references to real historical figures and where this story can go, since this time was rich on heroic and crucial battles and actions.
Everyone is saying that second book is much better, so I am continuing with the series and hope my guesses will come true, though I am not a big fan of the love interest that might be developed later on in the next books.
Apart of my "meh" opinion on the book, I highly recommend it. Arden made a great job with research and the descriptions are so accurate and detailed, that I could not stop admiring her work. The book has a glossary at the end, so please, do not miss it; it explains lots of Russian words used in a book and is really great help in navigating in pagan creatures that you might meet on the pages, and it is very accurate!