The Bear and the Nightingale

Del Rey:Ballantine. Jan. 2017. 322p. ISBN 9781101885932. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101885949. F
OrangeReviewStarYou don't have to know and love Russian folklore to appreciate Arden's fabulist—and fabulous—debut novel, which tells the story of how Vasilisa Petrovna, a village girl with royal bloodlines and more mysterious, magical antecedents, saves her corner of medieval Russia's wild north and effectively all humankind. At her rich boyar father's house, little Vasilisa delights in her old nurse's tales about Morozko, the death-god, the frost-king, who spares a maiden unafraid of him. Vasilisa, whose mother died in childbirth, runs wild as a child and cannot be reined in by her God-fearing new stepmother, brought from Moscow and terrified because she sees—and resists—her new home's house spirits. Vasilisa has befriended them and the woodland spirits, but the arrogant new priest inveighs fiercely against the old beliefs, and the ever-helpful spirits weaken as the fearful villagers stop leaving them gifts. Soon, cold, starvation, and death creep into the community, and Vasilisa must battle the raging bear loosed by the villagers' perfidy and representing a fate worse than death. In fact, the frost-king, death himself, echoes the legendary stories by helping her.
VERDICT Fleet and gorgeous as the firebird, a highly recommended exemplar of literary fantasy. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/16.]
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing