The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A magical debut novel for readers 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. Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale"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(starred review)"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 (starred review)"Arden's supple, sumptuous first novel transports the reader to a version of medieval Russia where history and myth coexist."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"Radiant . . . a darkly magical fairy tale for adults, [but] not just for those who love magic."—Library Journal "An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic."—Robin Hobb "A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up."—Naomi Novik"Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can't wait for her next book."—Terry Brooks "The Bear and the Nightingale is a marvelous trip into an ancient Russia where magic is a part of everyday life."—Todd McCaffrey "Enthralling and enchanting—I literally couldn't put it down. A wondrous book!"—Tamora Pierce
Publisher: 2017
ISBN: 9781101885949
Call Number: OverDrive ebook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


From Library Staff

This historical fiction (which includes just the right amount of magic) is set in 14th century Russia and has at its center a most beguiling heroine. She's a bit wild and very kind, and this novel is irresistible. If you like it, it's the first in a trilogy so you'll have so much more of this sto... Read More »

September was a tie. This was an absolute pleasure, a novel set in medieval Russia about an irresistible heroine with the ability to see spirits others can't and the trouble it gets her into. It's the perfect magical book to read on a snowy day, and lucky for you, it comes out in January, so I al... Read More »

This historical fiction (which includes just the right amount of magic) is set in 14th century Russia and has at its center a most beguiling heroine. She's a bit wild and very kind, and this novel is irresistible.

This is set in 14th century Russia, and it's historical fiction and fairy tale all mixed up, with a wonderful heroine at its center. She’s brave, energetic and kind, and has inherited her grandmother’s gift of being able to see all the creatures out of Russian folklore that are invisible to the ... Read More »

multcolib_susannel Feb 19, 2017

Vasilisa is not afraid of the dark forest that surrounds her village- only of the dark haired shadowman who lurks there..

Inspired by Russian Folklore.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 27, 2020

An elegantly woven first instalment of the Winternight Trilogy set in the frigid wilderness of Russian. Follow the strong heroine Vasilisa as her village struggles with continuing to honour the cultural mythology of their past or following the church.

PimaLib_JanaB Oct 15, 2020

I want to review the whole series here because I stayed up way too late last night finishing it. This is mytho-historical fiction set in late 1300's Russia.

In a land of opposite extremes, Vasilisa Petrovna is always on the wrong side. She is pagan in the land of the Russian Orthodox Church. She is a woman in a male dominated society. She is a believer in the ancient ways who lives in a world longing to be modern. Vasya fears the land she loves is dying with the relentless march of time.

Vasya sees and nourishes the pagan nature spirits around her. Vasya's stepmother also sees these spirits, but she fears and hates them as demons. Vasya fights to keep the old gods from fading in the new world, but the evil around her in both the Christian church and her own spiteful deities forces her to shed her innocence and become a powerful woman in a time where such a person is not supposed to exist.

The prose is magical in the way it weaves this world around the reader. The author's note at the end states that some of the characters and events are factual, which only added to the enchantment for me. I finished this series 12 hours ago, and I already want to reread it.

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

A beautifully written fantasy set in medieval Russia, based on Russian folklore. It’s told in a whimsical, fairy-tale-like tone, with a very rich atmosphere. A great beginning to an amazing series. Recommended for fans of lyrical prose, magical realism, and atmospheric stories.

ArapahoePaige Jul 20, 2020

Vasilisa lives on the edge of a Russian forest in a place where mythic folk thrive until her father brings home a new wife, one who doesn’t believe in the fairy creatures. Vasilisa lives in a time of change, loves someone who shouldn’t exist and fights to save her family. Love this trilogy!

Jul 17, 2020

Excellent 1st book, love me some Russian tales, excellent fairy tale😉

Jul 14, 2020

Surprisingly wonderful! I was dubious at another fairytale setting but... the characters are strong and endearing, their plight moved me to tears, the adventure is exciting, the culture of Rus' takes me back to my earliest days of reading Baba Yaga stories. AND there are Zombies!! The series is nominated for a Hugo Award in 2020.

Jun 28, 2020

Beautiful written and incredibly story-telling. I felt fully immersed in the story of Vasya and the battles of new religion and the old faith.

Jun 08, 2020

Absolutely amazing book and trilogy! I did have some trouble reading it because of the different name variations in Russian culture but I found listening to the audiobooks helped.
After listening to this series I actually bought the books because I loved the story so much!
Highly Highly recommend to anyone and everyone!

Mar 31, 2020

This book flows really well even with all the different point of views and it just keeps you reading until you look up and realize that the sun has come back up and that the book is, unfortunately, finished. The Bear and the Nightingale takes place in a fantasy version of historical Russia and tells the story of Vasya and her family. It reads like a fairytale and is absolutely beautifully written. Vasya is a wild child with a touch of magic and a willingness to be brave. This is definitely a character driven story and if you love plot more, then this might not be the book for you.

Mar 20, 2020

PLOT: It is medieval Russia and a mother dies shortly after childbirth- finally getting the daughter she wanted- one that she knew would have the same magical gifts as her own mother once had. Gifts that were rumored to have been used to enchant the Grand Prince of Moscow himself. This wild child is Vasilisa Petrovna, beloved daughter to a Russian boyar (a land-holding Lord), sister to four siblings, and pain in the ass to devout step-mother Anna. Just as Vasya's mother had predicted, her daughter was gifted with magic- the ability to see and talk to spirits of the hearth, stables, and forest. Even as a child, young Vasya would bravely traverse into the forest without a care in the world, learning about plants, ponds, rivers, and the spirits that resided within. And thus she grows into a teenager who is willful, playful, and spirited. She is not like her sister Olga, who wishes to be married and have children. Vasya is at home in the forest, and sees herself as friend of the spirits around her. One day, a young, attractive, and ambitious priest (batyushka) arrives in her small village of Lesnaya Zemlya and almost immediately is drawn (obsessively) by the young and wild Vasilisa. The priest also finds that he is remarkably good at enrapturing the peasants around him- by preaching fear of God and promising hell to those who follow the old ways of Russia (offerings, etc. to household spirits).

Vasya's stepmother also sees spirits, but to the devout woman, they are demons. Already a nervous and emotional mess, she immediately develops an obsessive dislike for her youngest daughter as quickly as she begins to obsess over the priest (she keeps telling herself it's solely religious respect). Add to the mix Vasya's meeting of Medved, the Bear, spirit of chaos who is trapped in the grips of a great tree by his brother Morozko, death, or the Winter King, and trouble ensues. The Bear is nearing his time for freedom, Morozko's power is waning, and Vasya's fate is entwined with both the Bear and Winter King's destinies. As the dead start walking, the priest becomes increasingly obsessed, Anna calls for the convent life for Vasya to be rid of her, the crops start failing, and the Winter King beckons... well... V is in for a hell of a ride...

PROS: Everything. This story is intricate, with various points of view that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and told with such expertise that you will not want to put this book down. My plot line did not even mention all of the characters that play major roles and so does not scratch the surface of this deep and poignant tale. This novel is not just about the conflicts between Russia's old ways and the incoming Catholic faith, a story about a girl struggling to remain true to herself, impossible love, or the saving of an empire, it is a story that weaves all to create a masterpiece of a folklore-based novel.

CONS: None. Zero. Zilch. Just read it.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.”

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“It is time to put aside dreaming. Fairy tales are sweet on winter nights, nothing more.”

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“If this is the last decision I can ever make, at least it is my decision."

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“Wild birds die in cages.”


Add Age Suitability
ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

ArapahoeKatieK thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


Add a Summary
ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

A story about Russian folklore. A girl is born to a Russian landowner in the middle of winter and there is something special about her. A tomboy from an early age, she spends her first decade and a half figuring out who she really is and how to use her abilities, how to fight evil, and how to keep her family safe.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top