The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I requested this from Netgalley (and was approved in exchange for an honest review) because I heard rumors it was reminiscent of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, which I loved, and that left it with a high standard to meet.
Thankfully, Katherine Arden did a damn good job. She convinced me that I was in the cold north of Russia. She made me believe that, when the winters came and the townsfolks were freezing, I was sitting by the hearth and sharing their warmth. She completely sold me on the supernatural all around, on the growing fear of the town, of the self-proclaimed madness of the stepmother, in the conviction that these spirits were real and had power and had bite.
Mostly, she persuaded me to love Vasya.
Ironically enough, I realized when the action really got going at around 65-70% that the first part of the book had been slow, mundane, day-to-day life and times of these characters... but it didn't matter. I hadn't even noticed the lack of real action because of Arden's writing and making me love the characters. That right there is talent. Couple that talent with the sheer depth of research she clearly engaged in to make this book accurate, and you can color me impressed.
I rarely request first books on Netgalley because I don't want to wait even longer for the next book, so I was disappointed when I found out this was to be the first in a trilogy. Now that I've finished it, my feelings have changed. Bring on book two... I'll do my best to wait patiently, but I want more Vasya!
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