Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale (2017)

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The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1) by Katherine Arden


“Blood is one thing. The sight is another. But courage—that is rarest of all, Vasilisa Petrovna.”

I absolutely loved Vasya, Morozko and Alyosha. And the white mare and Solovey and the domovoi and the rusalka and all the other magical friends Vasya made. I loved the snowy setting and the mystical feeling and how reading it felt like being transported into a snow globe. This reads like such a lovely fairy-tale and also fits in perfectly with my other recent reads: The Crown’s Game and Wolf Prince of Kstovo: Midwinter Nights. I love the setting (medieval Rus’) and the atmosphere (very wintry and dreamlike). It’s like a long-form bedtime story set in the coldest moments of winter. It absolutely transported me and I WANT BOOK TWO NOW.

Also, while Morozko and General Aleksander Kirigan aka the Darkling from Shadow and Bone are nothing alike, that’s exactly how I imagined Morozko. Anyone else?

gif of the darkling from shadow and bone walking in the snow in a heavy winter coat

Other than the blue eyes, he’s totally how I see Morozko, the frost-king.

I thought the whole novel was just so compelling. From the medieval Rus’ setting to the way the whole fairy-tale unfolds to how it all comes to a grand, epic, made-me-cry ending scene. A truly well spun and well crafted novel.

A small part of her had thought—hoped—that there would be some help in the woods. Some destiny—some magic. She had hoped the firebird would come, or the Horse with the Golden Mane, or the raven who was really a prince … foolish girl to believe in fairy tales. The winter wood was indifferent to men and women; the chyerti slept in winter, and there was no such thing as a raven-prince.

I really do hope all the characters get their happy ending in book three because they all went through so much in this one.

And although it took him, like, 250 pages to appear properly, Morozko quickly became one of my favourite characters, alongside Vasya and Alyosha, who I adored from the get go. Riding in to save Vasya? Talking to horses? Bringing Solovey to Vasya? His house that changes form? HE WAS JUST SO FANTASTIC AND I CAN’T WAIT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HIM! (His brother, in contrast, I’d really like not to meet again lmao. Scary bear.) Also, the immediate connection between him and Vasya was just lovely. I really hope this develops further in the subsequent books.

“You will have nothing of me, Vasya?” said Morozko, and for once she heard a human voice.

I found it hilarious how he got so insulted when she refused his offer of a dowry. LMAO.

Also that kiss???

“Very well,” Morozko said. Unexpectedly he reached out and drew her close and kissed her, quick and fierce. She looked up at him wide-eyed. “You must hold on, then,” he said. “As long as you may. Be brave.”

gif of alina and aleksander kissing on shadow and bone


ANYWAYS. LMAO. I am such a hopeless romantic.

As I mentioned, Alyosha really stood out to me as a wonderful character. He’s the closest brother to Vasya in age and after Sasha and Kolya leave home, it’s mostly Vasya and Alyosha sticking together to deal with the tough winters, the harsh snows, and their new stepmother. They also take care of their beloved grandmother Dunya. I love close sibling relationships and these two were just wonderful and really served as the foundation of the novel. So supportive and protective and caring. Alyosha stood up for and believed Vasya when their own father didn’t. I just really appreciated how loyal and steadfast he was. And how he never, not once let Vasya down. So many others truly failed her – her father, at times, in failing to see her stepmother’s ongoing abuse throughout, like, the entire novel; her stepmother, who treated her horrendously from the start when she could have actually bonded with her over their shared, mirrored magicks; and Konstantin, who clearly hated her for his own attraction to her. Kolya was sort of an absent brother throughout, and Sasha vanished once he joined the monks. But Alyosha never wavered and I just adored how much he and Vasya worked together and always returned to each other.

She found Alyosha alone in the winter kitchen, armed and pacing, cloaked and booted. He saw her and stopped dead. Brother and sister stared at each other. Then Alyosha took two strides, seized her and pulled her to him.

The final showdown totally made me cry. It was so great how it all wrapped up. I just love Vasya, Morozka, Aloysha and Pytor, as well as all the chyerti, the guardians and spirits who looked after the village over the years, making an appearance. All the threads of the tale came together so well.

Also, this book prompted me to look up what baked milk was – had never heard of it – and I must say I’m intrigued.


– I love Vasya and Alyosha. FOUR FOR ALYOSHA. He’s just such a good bro. I also really like Sasha and Kolya and Olga. Irina’s a cutie, but we get less of her (so far).
– Pyotr frustrates me. I get that he believes women should be in the home, but he flipflops a lot between seeing Vasya as his wife’s daughter who benefits from a life of adventure and exercise, and wanting her to be a wife SO OFTEN. Even more so when Anna comes along.
– ON THE SUBJECT OF ANNA – fuck, she’s maddening. I actually liked her at first and felt a bit bad for her because she was clearly scared, but then even after she realises that she and Vasya have the same gifts, she just absolutely turns on Vasya and chucks her towards the priest – and then she’s mad about the priest paying attention to her?!?! It’s like she’s both the evil stepmother and lusting after the priest WHILE SHE’S MARRIED TO PYOTR. I seriously do not understand Pyotr listening to a single word she says on the subject of Vasya.
– I’m kind of surprised by how long it takes to get to the winter-king. We’ve had like two (?) sightings of him by 200+ pages in and yet the whole book seems centred around his arrival. This isn’t a bad thing really, as the story is unfolding very slowly and is a verrrry slow burn, but I’m really curious to see what he’s like and how he – or if he – will help Vasya.
– Pyotr saving the day made me cryyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale (2017)

  1. I have read the first 2 out of the 3 and got half way through 3 and never finished. I agree I loved the first one. Aloysha is amazing as a Female lead. Brave and courageous . The winter King reminded me of a character in another book I read , called star mother. When you could only see them when the atmosphere was right. I hope you enjoy the rest of the books

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