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Publisher's Summary

A magical debut novel for listeners of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman's myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

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.

©2017 Katherine Arden (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)
"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)
"Arden's supple, sumptuous first novel transports the reader to a version of medieval Russia where history and myth coexist." ( Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

I was swept away

This was such a wonderful story that I honestly got lost in it and it was unlike any book I have read. It was also familiar, in a way, and reminded me of stories my own grandmother used to tell me when I was little. This is a story with a strong protagonist, rich characters and an enchanting story that proves you are never too old for fairy tales. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially someone who loves folktales and especially on a cold night with warm tea handy!

28 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Culture-Rich, Unusual, Captivating


This novel of Russian Folklore is beautifully written with smooth narration. Arden paints a great mental landscape with rich descriptions Russia and it's culture. If this is a fairy tale, it is an adult fairy tale.

The atmosphere is similar to Marillier's "Blackthorn and Grim," Joyce's "Some Kind of Fairy Tale," and "The Snow Child."

I love books that grab my attention from page one and maintain it until I hear "Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program." The Bear and the Nightingale did that for me.

44 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Similar in feel to "Uprooted", I loved it

Reading other reviews, I was pleased to see several mentions of Naomi Novik's "Uprooted" in comparison to this fantasy. The language is lovely, not stilted, and the descriptions sit in a satisfactory way in the mouth. The narrator of the audiobook version did a wonderful Russian accent, not too heavy in the vowels, not hard to follow. I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I would give this six stars if I could

She is a fantastic story teller I loved every bit of this book

I cannot put it down.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I have missed reading enough book reviews.

How ELSE can I explain having missed this author & this title until now? I am certain that reviewers have been as favorable (or moreso!) about her perfect accent - American OR Russian - as well as her ability to add more than a soupçon of interest to narration .

Absolutely fresh and refreshing, learning about Russian fables....made all the more delightful by the narrator, Kathleen Gati. She injects a certain Eastern focus by explaining, for example, the lore surrounding "Frost", which is most interestingly and definitely different the "Jack Frost" tales we have here in the USA.

Last, but far and away from "least" for the author, Katherine Arden, a huge "BRAVA" for her ability to bring Russian tales to light and sprinkling them them throughout to honestly picture the difference between East and West -- even to the "tales" we honor by passing them on the next generation. AND to presenting us with memorable insight to what makes our fairy tales so very entertaining, in this case, the "Eastern" focus and it's impact on both the story, the characters and the reader. Again, "BRAVA!" -- and "Thank You!"

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jeremy
  • HOUSTON, TX, United States
  • 04-07-17

An Impoverished Fantasy

What makes good scifi / fantasy is its resonance. You can have dragons, aliens, mermaids, wizards, magic, but all of those fantastical elements should call to our world in some way. Monsters are real. This is why Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Song of Ice & Fire all work is because we recognize the truth underneath the magical. The Bear and the Nightingale lacks resonance because there doesn't seem to be anything real within the story. The monster is ill defined, the hero lacks cohesion, all characters seem to lack motivation.

What is so frustrating is that there is a really great book in here somewhere. I want to read about Russian folklore. I want to read about what life was like for a village in Northern Russia during winter.

I really wanted to like this book, I'm only about one hour from finishing, and I'm not sure I'll actually take the time.

30 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Standard Fantasy Fare

Standard fantasy trope of someone being born with special powers that no one else possesses. Thankfully, she wasn't destined to save the world (just her village).

I confess that I had difficulty keeping track of some of the characters because of their Russian names. I think this difficulty was particular to the audiobook format and would have been easier on the written page. Despite this, the narrator did a wonderful job with them and her performance added a lot of authenticity to the tale.

The story took awhile to get started. This is a two-book series, and much like a Marvel movie, it had a couple of tangents that had nothing to do with the main story, which I suspect will be taken up in the next book. For example, the book introduces a brother who wants to become a monk early in the book. That decision is made and is never again relevant to the story. I don't like stories told in this way (just wait until these danging plots become relevant with future book purchases).

I also didn't care for what has become a standard trope in modern story-telling, which is to make Christian priests the bad guys. The church is bad. The priest is the real evil-doer. Did I just blow your mind? I suspect not. I've seen it a thousand times before and it's tedious and at odds with reality.

The bad guy seems to gain strength because of the people's unbelief in the old ways, or fear, or something. It's not clear. And it's not clear how our heroine's actions at the end were sufficient to beat back the rising unbelief or fear, or whatever. The resolution wasn't related to the cause. So, it wasn't very satisfying.

In all, it had some interesting concepts. The heroine was sympathetic and interesting, but the story seemed a little jumbled and cluttered with some storytelling elements that detracted from the tale. I'd pass.

AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful!

Was very easy to get lost in this world and enjoy every minute. Looking forward to her next book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Russian Fairytale

I have never heard a Russian Fairytale before and this was a well written wonderfully colorful tale. Enjoy it a lot, very entertaining, thank you

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved it!

It is very similar to Novik's Uprooted in terms of style. Like a fairy tale.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful