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The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1)

[A quick note: I got these editions from Fairyloot because I knew I would love this trilogy. It took forever for them to come and then when they did, I didnโ€™t get around to starting them for a couple of months. I knew I wanted to read them during winter, since I wanted the atmospheric vibes. The cute mug came from Illumicrate and features Morozko and Vasilisa on their trusty steeds.]

โ€œ๐๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐  ๐œ๐ก๐š๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ฌ, ๐•๐š๐ฌ๐ฒ๐š. ๐“๐ก๐ข๐ง๐ ๐ฌ ๐š๐ซ๐ž, ๐จ๐ซ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ฒ ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ง๐จ๐ญ. ๐Œ๐š๐ ๐ข๐œ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐ ๐ž๐ญ๐ญ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ญ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ฌ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ ๐ฐ๐š๐ฌ ๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐ญ๐ก๐š๐ง ๐š๐ฌ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ž๐ ๐ข๐ญ.โ€ โ€”Katherine Arden

This whimsical, magical tale of an evil Bear, a courageous Nightingale, and one girlโ€™s coming of age will grab you by the heart. Vasilisa is seen by her villagers as a strange thing. Sheโ€™s not like other girls who dream of finding husbands and settling down to keep house. Instead, she sees monsters, ventures out into the forest alone, and rides horses better than most boys. Sheโ€™s special, but no one sees it that way. They whisper behind her back, blame her for the failing crops, for the things that begin to go wrong, and talk about shipping her of to a convent.

There was something so real and raw about the storytelling. The hardships endured by Vasilisaโ€™s family and her people in the dead of winter didnโ€™t feel contrived. It felt almost bibliographic in nature. As if these events happened and Vasilisa was merely telling us her story. In short, this was just so special!

Set in the Russian wilderness, TBatN is filled with family, tradition, and tons of folklore. The main backbone of folklore follows Russiaโ€™s frost king, Morozko, demon of death. Morozko is known for sweeping in on the coldest nights of winter, the darkest nights, and taking the young children and the infirm. But it is Morozkoโ€™s battle with his evil brother, the Bear, that Vasilisa becomes involved with. The Bear wishes to bring famine and misfortune on everyone by nurturing fear and forcing the world to forsake the little fae folk. If he breaks free, the world will fall.

When a new priest comes to Vasilisaโ€™s village, the villagers begin to turn from their traditions. They no longer leave small offerings for the tiny magical folk that keep them safe. No more offerings for the demon who lives in the stables tending the horses, or the demon who lives in the oven stoking the flames. And when these offerings stop, the chains holding the Bear in his prison break, allowing him to sweep in and set the dead walking. Itโ€™s in this coldest part of winter that Vasilisa finally discovers whatโ€™s happening. But sheโ€™s the only one holding on to the old ways, the only one fighting to keep these special creatures alive.

In their fear, it seems that everyone hasโ€ฆforgotten.

Vasilisaโ€™s coming of age was a large portion of the story leading up to the main events. Vasiliaโ€™s family accepts her, when her village doesnโ€™t. But even her family tries hard to convince her to want the things normal girls do. Vasilisa isnโ€™t easily swayed. She knows what she wants and struggles to hold true to herself, even when it seems that marriage is her only option. Even when it seems thereโ€™s no other choice. There is a quote that sums her up so perfectly:

โ€œ๐€๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฆ๐ฒ ๐ฅ๐ข๐Ÿ๐ž,โ€ ๐ฌ๐ก๐ž ๐ฌ๐š๐ข๐, โ€œ๐ˆ ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐›๐ž๐ž๐ง ๐ญ๐จ๐ฅ๐ โ€˜๐ ๐จโ€™ ๐š๐ง๐ โ€˜๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž.โ€™ ๐ˆ ๐š๐ฆ ๐ญ๐จ๐ฅ๐ ๐ก๐จ๐ฐ ๐ˆ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž, ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ˆ ๐š๐ฆ ๐ญ๐จ๐ฅ๐ ๐ก๐จ๐ฐ ๐ˆ ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐๐ข๐ž. ๐ˆ ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐›๐ž ๐š ๐ฆ๐š๐งโ€™๐ฌ ๐ฌ๐ž๐ซ๐ฏ๐š๐ง๐ญ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐š ๐ฆ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž, ๐จ๐ซ ๐ˆ ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ก๐ข๐๐ž ๐ฆ๐ฒ๐ฌ๐ž๐ฅ๐Ÿ ๐›๐ž๐ก๐ข๐ง๐ ๐ฐ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ฌ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ซ๐ž๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ ๐ฆ๐ฒ ๐Ÿ๐ฅ๐ž๐ฌ๐ก ๐ญ๐จ ๐š ๐œ๐จ๐ฅ๐, ๐ฌ๐ข๐ฅ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐ ๐จ๐. ๐ˆ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ฐ๐š๐ฅ๐ค ๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐จ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฃ๐š๐ฐ๐ฌ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ก๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ข๐ญ๐ฌ๐ž๐ฅ๐Ÿ, ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐ข๐ญ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐š ๐ฉ๐š๐ญ๐ก ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ฆ๐ฒ ๐จ๐ฐ๐ง ๐œ๐ก๐จ๐จ๐ฌ๐ข๐ง๐ . ๐ˆ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐๐ข๐ž ๐ญ๐จ๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐ซ๐จ๐ฐ ๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ญ๐ก๐š๐ง ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐š ๐ก๐ฎ๐ง๐๐ซ๐ž๐ ๐ฒ๐ž๐š๐ซ๐ฌ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฅ๐ข๐Ÿ๐ž ๐š๐ฉ๐ฉ๐จ๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐ฆ๐ž. ๐๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ž. ๐๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ž ๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ ๐ฆ๐ž ๐ก๐ž๐ฅ๐ฉ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ.โ€ โ€”Katherine Arden

What a charming story! I finally understand the hype. Thereโ€™s so much to praise. The fairytale feel, Vasilisa being the perfect feminist MC, the magical forest vibes, morally gray characters, and all the folklore. It wasnโ€™t what I expected by a long shot. But I loved it. Fair warning: there wasnโ€™t any romance to speak of. It was entirely a coming of age story, but who doesnโ€™t love one of those? I canโ€™t wait to read the second one! ๐Œ๐˜ ๐‘๐€๐“๐ˆ๐๐†: ๐Ÿ’.๐Ÿ“/๐Ÿ“โญ๏ธ


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