The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1)

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1)

by Katherine Arden

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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101885949
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/10/2017
Series: Winternight Trilogy Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 6,206
File size: 9 MB

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

Read an Excerpt

It was late winter in northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow. The brilliant February landscape had given way to the dreary gray of March, and the household of Pyotr Vladimirovich were all sniffling from the damp and thin from six weeks’ fasting on black bread and fermented cabbage. But no one was thinking of chilblains or runny noses, or even, wistfully, of porridge and roast meats, for Dunya was to tell a story.

That evening, the old lady sat in the best place for talking: in the kitchen, on the wooden bench beside the oven. This oven was a massive affair built of fired clay, taller than a man and large enough that all four of Pyotr Vladimirovich’s children could have fit easily inside. The flat top served as a sleeping platform; its innards cooked their food, heated their kitchen, and made steam-baths for the sick.

“What tale will you have tonight?” Dunya inquired, enjoying the fire at her back. Pyotr’s children sat before her, perched on stools. They all loved stories, even the second son, Sasha, who was a self-consciously devout child, and would have insisted—had anyone asked him—that he preferred to pass the evening in prayer. But the church was cold, the sleet outside unrelenting. Sasha had thrust his head out-of-doors, gotten a faceful of wet, and retired, vanquished, to a stool a little apart from the others, where he sat affecting an expression of pious indifference.

The others set up a clamor on hearing Dunya’s question: “Finist the Falcon!”

“Ivan and the Gray Wolf!” “Firebird! Firebird!”

Little Alyosha stood on his stool and waved his arms, the better to be heard over his bigger siblings, and Pyotr’s boarhound raised its big, scarred head at the commotion.

But before Dunya could answer, the outer door clattered open and there came a roar from the storm without. A woman appeared in the doorway, shaking the wet from her long hair. Her face glowed with the chill, but she was thinner than even her children; the fire cast shadows in the hollows of cheek and throat and temple. Her deep-set eyes threw back the firelight. She stooped and seized Alyosha in her arms.

The child squealed in delight. “Mother!” he cried. “Matyushka!” Marina Ivanovna sank onto her stool, drawing it nearer the blaze.

Alyosha, still clasped in her arms, wound both fists around her braid. She trembled, though it was not obvious under her heavy clothes. “Pray the wretched ewe delivers tonight,” she said. “Otherwise I fear we shall never see your father again. Are you telling stories, Dunya?”

“If we might have quiet,” said the old lady tartly. She had been Marina’s nurse, too, long ago.

“I’ll have a story,” said Marina at once. Her tone was light, but her eyes were dark. Dunya gave her a sharp glance. The wind sobbed outside. “Tell the story of Frost, Dunyashka. Tell us of the frost-demon, the winter-king Karachun. He is abroad tonight, and angry at the thaw.”

Dunya hesitated. The elder children looked at each other. In Russian, Frost was called Morozko, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night. It was an ill-omened word, and unlucky to speak it while he still held the land in his grip. Marina was holding her son very tightly. Alyosha squirmed and tugged his mother’s braid.

“Very well,” said Dunya after a moment’s hesitation. “I shall tell the story of Morozko, of his kindness and his cruelty.” She put a slight emphasis on this name: the safe name that could not bring them ill luck. Marina smiled sardonically and untangled her son’s hands. None of the others made any protest, though the story of Frost was an old tale, and they had all heard it many times before. In Dunya’s rich, precise voice it could not fail to delight.

“In a certain princedom—” began Dunya. She paused and fixed a quelling eye upon Alyosha, who was squealing like a bat and bouncing in his mother’s arms.

“Hush,” said Marina, and handed him the end of her braid again to play with.

“In a certain princedom,” the old lady repeated, with dignity, “there lived a peasant who had a beautiful daughter.”

“Whasser name?” mumbled Alyosha. He was old enough to test the authenticity of fairy tales by seeking precise details from the tellers.

“Her name was Marfa,” said the old lady. “Little Marfa. And she was beautiful as sunshine in June, and brave and good-hearted besides. But Marfa had no mother; her own had died when she was an infant. Although her father had remarried, Marfa was still as motherless as any orphan could be. For while Marfa’s stepmother was quite a handsome woman, they say, and she made delicious cakes, wove fine cloth, and brewed rich kvas, her heart was cold and cruel. She hated Marfa for the girl’s beauty and goodness, favoring instead her own ugly, lazy daughter in all things. First the woman tried to make Marfa ugly in turn by giving her all the hardest work in the house, so that her hands would be twisted, her back bent, and her face lined. But Marfa was a strong girl, and perhaps possessed a bit of magic, for she did all her work un- complainingly and went on growing lovelier and lovelier as the years passed.

“So the stepmother—” seeing Alyosha’s open mouth, Dunya added, “—Darya Nikolaevna was her name—finding she could not make Marfa hard or ugly, schemed to rid herself of the girl once and for all. Thus, one day at midwinter, Darya turned to her husband and said, ‘Husband, I believe it is time for our Marfa to be wed.’

“Marfa was in the izba cooking pancakes. She looked at her step- mother with astonished joy, for the lady had never taken an interest in her, except to find fault. But her delight quickly turned to dismay.

“ ‘—And I have just the husband for her. Load her into the sledge and take her into the forest. We shall wed her to Morozko, the lord of winter. Can any maiden ask for a finer or richer bridegroom? Why, he is master of the white snow, the black firs, and the silver frost!’

“The husband—his name was Boris Borisovich—stared in horror at his wife. Boris loved his daughter, after all, and the cold embrace of the winter god is not for mortal maidens. But perhaps Darya had a bit of magic of her own, for her husband could refuse her nothing. Weeping, he loaded his daughter into the sledge, drove her deep into the forest, and left her at the foot of a fir tree.

“Long the girl sat alone, and she shivered and shook and grew colder and colder. At length, she heard a great clattering and snapping. She looked up to behold Frost himself coming toward her, leaping among the trees and snapping his fingers.”

“But what did he look like?” Olga demanded.

Dunya shrugged. “As to that, no two tellers agree. Some say he is naught but a cold, crackling breeze whispering among the firs. Others say he is an old man in a sledge, with bright eyes and cold hands. Others say he is like a warrior in his prime, but robed all in white, with weapons of ice. No one knows. But something came to Marfa as she sat there; an icy blast whipped around her face, and she grew colder than ever. And then Frost spoke to her, in the voice of the winter wind and the falling snow:

“ ‘Are you quite warm, my beauty?’

“Marfa was a well-brought-up girl who bore her troubles uncomplainingly, so she replied, ‘Quite warm, thank you, dear Lord Frost.’ At this, the demon laughed, and as he did, the wind blew harder than ever. All the trees groaned above their heads. Frost asked again, ‘And now? Warm enough, sweetheart?’ Marfa, though she could barely speak from the cold, again replied, ‘Warm, I am warm, thank you.’ Now it was a storm that raged overhead; the wind howled and gnashed its teeth until poor Marfa was certain it would tear the skin from her bones. But Frost was not laughing now, and when he asked a third time: ‘Warm, my darling?’ she answered, forcing the words between frozen lips as blackness danced before her eyes, ‘Yes . . . warm. I am warm, my Lord Frost.’

“Then he was filled with admiration for her courage and took pity on her plight. He wrapped her in his own robe of blue brocade and laid her in his sledge. When he drove out of the forest and left the girl by her own front door, she was still wrapped in the magnificent robe and bore also a chest of gems and gold and silver ornaments. Marfa’s father wept with joy to see the girl once more, but Darya and her daughter were furious to see Marfa so richly clad and radiant, with a prince ’s ransom at her side. So Darya turned to her husband and said, ‘Husband, quickly! Take my daughter Liza up in your sledge. The gifts that Frost has given Marfa are nothing to what he will give my girl!’

“Though in his heart Boris protested all this folly, he took Liza up in his sledge. The girl was wearing her finest gown and wrapped in heavy fur robes. Her father took her deep into the woods and left her beneath the same fir tree. Liza in turn sat a long time. She had begun to grow very cold, despite her furs, when at last Frost came through the trees, cracking his fingers and laughing to himself. He danced right up to Liza and breathed into her face, and his breath was the wind out of the north that freezes skin to bone. He smiled and asked, ‘Warm enough, darling?’ Liza, shuddering, answered, ‘Of course not, you fool! Can you not see that I am near perished with cold?’

“The wind blew harder than ever, howling about them in great, tearing gusts. Over the din he asked, ‘And now? Quite warm?’ The girl shrieked back, ‘But no, idiot! I am frozen! I have never been colder in my life! I am waiting for my bridegroom Frost, but the oaf hasn’t come.’ Hearing this, Frost’s eyes grew hard as adamant; he laid his fingers on her throat, leaned forward, and whispered into the girl’s ear, ‘Warm now, my pigeon?’ But the girl could not answer, for she had died when he touched her and lay frozen in the snow.

“At home, Darya waited, pacing back and forth. ‘Two chests of gold at least,’ she said, rubbing her hands. ‘A wedding-dress of silk velvet and bridal-blankets of the finest wool.’ Her husband said nothing. The shadows began to lengthen and there was still no sign of her daughter. At length, Darya sent her husband out to retrieve the girl, admonishing him to have care with the chests of treasure. But when Boris reached the tree where he had left his daughter that morning, there was no treasure at all: only the girl herself, lying dead in the snow. “With a heavy heart, the man lifted her in his arms and bore her back home. The mother ran out to meet them. ‘Liza,’ she called. ‘My love!’

“Then she saw the corpse of her child, huddled up in the bottom of the sledge. At that moment, the finger of Frost touched Darya’s heart, too, and she fell dead on the spot.”

There was a small, appreciative silence.

Then Olga spoke up plaintively. “But what happened to Marfa? Did she marry him? King Frost?”

“Cold embrace, indeed,” Kolya muttered to no one in particular, grinning.

Dunya gave him an austere look, but did not deign to reply.

“Well, no, Olya,” she said to the girl. “I shouldn’t think so. What use does Winter have for a mortal maiden? More likely she married a rich peasant, and brought him the largest dowry in all Rus’.”

Olga looked ready to protest this unromantic conclusion, but Dunya had already risen with a creaking of bones, eager to retire. The top of the oven was large as a great bed, and the old and the young and the sick slept upon it. Dunya made her bed there with Alyosha.

The others kissed their mother and slipped away. At last Marina herself rose. Despite her winter clothes, Dunya saw anew how thin she had grown, and it smote the old lady’s heart. It will soon be spring, she comforted herself. The woods will turn green and the beasts give rich milk. I will make her pie with eggs and curds and pheasant, and the sun will make her well again.

But the look in Marina’s eyes filled the old nurse with foreboding.

Reading Group Guide

1. Throughout the novel, Vasya meets many strange creatures from Dunya’s fairy tales—­from the domovoi to the rusalka to upyry. Which of the demons that Vasya encounters is your favorite? Which ones would you never want to meet?

2. Compare some of the fairy tales and creatures referenced here to your favorite Western fairy tales. What are some commonalties? How are they different?

3. What are some tropes or stock characters of the traditional Western fairy tale that you can spot in The Bear and the Nightingale? Were there any parts of the traditional Western fairy tale that were used in a way that surprised you?

4. Dunya is tasked by both Pyotr and the winter-­king to give the talisman to Vasya, yet Dunya is conflicted. She fears for Vasya’s safety if she were to possess the talisman, but the winter-­king insists that Vasya must have it in order to protect them all. Was Dunya right to keep the talisman from Vasya for so long?

5. Do you trust the winter-­king? What do you think he is still hiding from Vasya?

6. The various demons and spirits begin to prophesize Vasya’s fate to her in mysterious riddles, and we learn bit by bit that the winter-­king also seems to possess knowledge of what’s to come and the role Vasya is destined to play. What role do you think fate plays in the novel? How much of what happens is the result of choices made by the characters versus an inevitable destiny?

7. Who do you think is to blame for the suffering Vasya’s village of Lesnaya Zemlya faces: Konstantin? The villagers for neglecting their offerings to the demons? Anna for rejecting her second sight and punishing Vasya for hers? Metropolitan Aleksei for sending Anna and Konstantin to the village? Pyotr for allowing such misery to befall his village? Is the blame shared? Was the fate of the village inevitable?

8. To what degree is the character of Konstantin sympathetic? Does his passionate faith excuse his actions? Is he an unwitting dupe or a willing player in his own fall? Do his charisma and artistic talent conflict with or complement his vocation as a priest? Why?

9. What are some parallels between Vasya and her stepmother? What are some key differences between them? Why does Anna hate Vasya so much?

10. Vasya is faced with the choice of marriage, a convent, or a life in which she’s considered an outsider by her village and her family. What would you have done in her place?

11. Why do you think the villagers are so threatened by Vasya? What does she represent to them?

12. The Bear and the Nightingale is not a clear-­cut story of good vs. evil, though there are many other opposing forces, including the Bear vs. Morozko, order vs. chaos, the old traditions vs. Christianity, and, of course, the Bear vs. the Nightingale. What are some other examples? How do these opposing forces overlap, and where do you think Vasya fits in?

13. Over the course of the book, we see multiple instances of characters correlating someone’s goodness with physical appearance. For instance, Vasya’s almost-­husband, Kyril, is called handsome and is ­consequently revered despite his cruel personality. Vasya, meanwhile, is repeatedly called a “frog” and is quickly labeled a witch. What are some instances in your life where you have seen others being mis­labeled based on their appearance? Are there times when you have felt like you have been mislabeled?

14. The Bear and the Nightingale is bracketed by sacrifice—­first Vasya’s mother, then at the end her father. How is sacrifice an important theme in the book? How many characters are called upon to give up something important, even vital? Not just Vasya herself, but Anna and Konstantin, for example. How do the sacrifices of others shape the narrative?

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The Bear and the Nightingale 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It reminded me if the Seven waters books and I liked the emersion into the Russian folktale
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Masterfully woven with fire side tales in a larger story. Fantastic imagery brings Fifteenth centuy Rus' to life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of initial promise but so unbearably slow! I'm at the halfway point and I can't stand to read anymore. Painful mistakes by pretty much all the characters drag things on then suddenly there are vampires! I'm not saying this kind of tale with brownies and such can't have vampires, but it basically jumped the shark for me. Not sure I will finish this, certainly not going to read the next, and totally regret spending the money on it (even though it was on sale).
LadyGraymalkin More than 1 year ago
This was an enchanting first novel. Russian folklore/fairytale retellings are under explored territory in my experience as a reader. (Although strangely I am reading two this week.) This book did something amazing in my opinion. The setting perfectly evoked a bleak and frigid Russian winter, while allowing the characters to be vibrant and warm and full of life. I don't want to get into spoiler territory, but I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes fairy tales, Russia, or well written books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a great book. If you like fairytales and fantasy I highly recommend it. There are many words in russian which I found a bit off putting because I didn't know what they meant but there was actually a glossary at the end of the book, so once I discovered it it was quite helpful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of those books you don't want to put down and keep thinking about when you're not reading it. Excellent.
seayomama More than 1 year ago
“Blood is one thing. The sight is another. But courage—that is rarest of all, Vasilisa Petrovna.” The Bear and the Nightingale is the most brilliant fantasy novel I’ve seen since Tolkien wrote, and I want you to understand how different, how special it is. I received my copy free in exchange for an honest review—and those of you that read my last two reviews know that this privilege has never made me obsequious. Thank you Net Galley and Random House Ballantine for the advance copy. It’s worth its weight in spun golden magic, and it will be available to the public this Tuesday, January 10, 2017. “The brave live…The cowards die in the snow.” Our protagonist is Vasilisa, affectionately known as Vasya; she’s an adolescent with many talents, some of which are supernatural. She generally keeps these abilities to herself, lest she be called a witch. Her father, Pyotr, is a minor prince in the frozen Northern hinterlands of Russia during the 14th century. The setting here is mesmerizing, and from the first page I understood that this particular story is one I would save for late nights when my family is asleep. Let my other reading be interrupted by the minutiae of running a household, but not this one. This is a juicy tale, perfect for a cold winter night burrowed beneath the quilts. I open this magical tale and am lost inside it. Our setting is ancient Northern Russia, then known as ‘Rus’, since no central government had formed yet. This is a time when women carry about as much social worth as a poker chip or livestock, and yet as the story progresses, I realize that this is a stand-up-tall feminist folk tale of the highest order; in fact, it’s a lot of things. This is the sort of debut that most likely causes writers like Harper Lee to go back in the house and never publish anything else, lest the second novel be considered a let-down after the first. I hope, however, that we’ll see a lot more of Arden. Our story commences in the house of Pyotr, a minor prince whose wife has died in childbirth. He loved Marina dearly, but as his daughters grow closer to marriageable age, he knows he must go to Moscow to seek a new bride to run his home, and marry his elder daughter Olga to a man of wealth and power. And though Olga’s match is a good one, it’s in Pyotr’s remarriage that things go badly wrong. A brief note about the setting and other details involved with time and place. First know that this story does require a relatively high literacy level; for those that struggle with a high vocabulary level, it may prove to be more work than fun. However—for those reading digitally especially—please note that there’s a glossary at the back of the book. And those that are able to read this digitally on a device with a touch screen will be happiest of all, because it’s so easy to touch a word and get a definition immediately. I also ran a few searches due to curiosity, since I was not at all eager for this book to end. I took my time with it, and while I was buried in this magical world, I was nevertheless learning details of history and geography that I hadn’t known before. Because I taught teenagers how to write for a number of years, it’s my natural inclination, even in an absorbing story such as Arden’s, to go back and look again to see what specifically produced this alchemy. Undoubtedly, the development of multiple characters in a deft, expert manner is essential. There’s not one character in this story that I don’t believe. Every last one o
Jamie B More than 1 year ago
I went into this novel knowing that it was a fairy tale retelling, but what I got was an incredible dark pastoral fantasy woven together with dozens of Russian myths. The Bear and the Nightingale was a pleasant surprise and a pleasure to read. The world building in this book is absolutely phenomenal. The setting is historic Russia bursting at the seams with supernatural elements. The world is full of demons and other spirits, each with their own beliefs and ways of life. I liked that even though many of the spirits were kindly to Vasya, they all weren’t necessarily good in the way you would expect. Some were even a little bit frightening and not all that friendly toward humans. It truly felt like the world had a certain order that was much bigger and centuries older than humanity. The atmosphere was fantastic and I got a real sense of the unknown while reading. Vasya, eventually dubbed the Wild Maiden, really was spirited and free and I loved her character. The characters in this book are extremely complicated and well developed. I got a real sense of family reading about the Petrovna children. The priest Konstantin was also a fascinating character, he becomes Vasya’s foil and he gave me some serious Claude Frollo vibes. Even though he was frustrating and obviously a negative force for Vasya, I almost liked his character in a way and wanted him to be corrupted, which was what made the book and its characters so brilliant. The two represented the central conflict of the story: religion. The gradual shift from the mythical Slavic tradition of old to the new religion blazing a trail across Eurasia: Christianity. The clash between religions was the driving force of the story and it was phenomenal from start to finish. I know that it’s still early to call it, but this might just end up being one of my favorite books of the year. I was shocked to find while writing this that The Bear and the Nightingale is the first in a planned trilogy. I’m not entirely sure where the story can go from here, but I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on the series in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't remember the last time I've so thoroughly enjoyed a book! Highly recommended to those who enjoy a little fantasy in a tale... even better if you're a horse-lover.
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
The Bear and the Nightingale (Hardcover) by Katherine Arden Looking into fairy tales and discussing their elements and merits with second graders changing your focus when reading this Russian tale. I like that she chose specific translations of the Russian names not only because of their beauty but because of the exotic image they give the text. Looking at the characters and their names is only the beginning of the story. I love the cultural elements within the story, the ideas of death, winter, and symbols like the bear and the nightingale. This book is a great introduction to Russian fairy tales, and is a great Young Adult intro into adult fairy tales and would compliment many series of Fairy Tale stories, like those written by Robin McKinley.
Sarai Samos More than 1 year ago
I appreciate the fantastic books hope you come up with more ideas soon !!!!!!
gaele More than 1 year ago
I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find in the pages of this book, but I am so very glad that I went on and explored. The exhaustive research into folk and faerie tales from the Slavic world is impressive, and resonates on each page. This book is not a rush to the finish story, but often hesitates and stalls, allowing the descriptions their time to shine, and imbuing readers with that sense of being there, enmeshed in the cold, as the pages turn. A mix of historic fiction and faerie tale, Arden spends much of the book in explanation and family history for Vasilia, the heroine, and much of the information serves to highlight the source of her unusual powers and the conflicts that will come to be hers as benevolent and not so forces combine to test, task and strengthen her. Told in multiple perspectives, some working better than others, the head jumping does take effort for the reader, but as the story is moving slowly, these moments often serve to flush out a visualization and allow the moments to grow exponentially, fixing the images in mind and place. Like all faerie tales, there are decidedly good and bad characters, and Arden has managed to place shades of grey in there, allowing choice and intention determine the outcomes. Wholly engaging and immersive, you expect to look out the window and see nothing but snow and trees as far as the eye can see. The first of three planned novels that combine Slavic folk and faerie tales with fiction and a perspective that is wholly her own, Arden is an author to watch for those readers who enjoy a slower-paced story that arrives with a solid feel of new and different. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just started up reading again and this was a perfect choice read the whole thing in only a few days!!!
apeape More than 1 year ago
Lush, gorgeous prose with its feet planted firmly in Russian folklore. If you like fairy tale retellings and/or magical realism, you'll love this book. I can hardly wait to read the next in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it
Lisa_Loves_Literature More than 1 year ago
I am usually a pretty big fan of fairy tale retellings, especially when it is one like this was blurbed to be, a not so well known Russian tale. I was lucky enough to win an advanced copy through a Goodreads giveaway. However, when I first began this, I was afraid I wasn't going to finish it. It took me a bit to get into it. In the end though, I'm glad I stuck it out, as it turned out to get really good, and so hard to put down! The story is about the winter demon basically. At the beginning, the mother of the family goes off to the woods, and swears that she will have a baby like her own mother was. Her mother was part royalty, but also had some kind of unusual ancestry. And when she has this child, she dies in childbirth, and the new child is odd. This new little girl is named Vasilisa. Vasilisa doesn't behave like a normal girl would, she enjoys playing outside and stays outside. She also acts like she sees the little creatures that are part of the Russian folklore. Well, she really does see them, even some of the dangerous ones that she is able to help save some of the townfolk from. When her father travels into Moscow, he ends up with a wife, and soon after that, a new priest. A priest who wants to force the backwards village people to give up all of their old ways and "false idols" to worship only the one true god. But in doing so, the villagers lose their protection against the winter demon and soon bad things start to happen. The winter gets really bad. Very large wolves begin attacking. And the people begin to turn on Vasilisa, believing she must be a witch because she doesn't give up the old ways. All kinds of things are tried, her stepmother even tries to send her away when her father is not there, wanting to get rid of her, and the attention that the priest seems to be giving to Vasilisa instead of the stepmother. The stepmother has always seen the creatures, and thinks they are demons and that she is going crazy when she sees them. There is so much more to this story. Vasilisa will have to go back into what her mother did to bring her into this world, and she will discover her own connection to the winter demon, and why she can see all these creatures. She will also have to figure out if there is a way she can help her people, basically save them, when it seems the person they have now turned to for their salvation, is the one that has brought the devil into their midst. Like I said, it took me a while to get into, about a fourth of the way before I was to the point of having trouble putting it down. But halfway through I was at the point that I could barely put it down to go to work or bed or anything else. If you have the patience for the slow beginning build up, the payoff is totally worth it in the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful first novel. I love how Ms Arden developed the mental pictures of the "demons" that Vasya grew to see, and how she made me see them. The family dynamics were beautifully presented. Now I find this is one of a trilogy ... onto book two and I'll patiently wait for book three in Jan 2019.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Arden wrote an beautiful story.
18876111 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the story, the characters, the elements of fantasy, and how the setting was so atmospheric. This book was a refreshing read for me and I can't wait to read the second book.
eclecticbookwrm More than 1 year ago
Arden had me at Russian fairytales and Jack Frost. I loved every minute of it. The beginning lulled me into a sense of security. Yes, OK, fantasy. This is very familiar territory. And the setting and characters and world just became more and more real until I was breathless waiting to see what would happen next. This book is magic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The spirits and folklore seemed so real, and the family connections were moving.