Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden
Edition: eGalley courtesy of Netgalley
Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Rating: 3 Stars
I received an early copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

I stumbled across this one a little on accident, but as soon as I read the description I was enchanted. It sounded beautiful, and whimsical, and haunting, and was absolutely what I was in the mood for during the winter months. Unfortunately, it let me down quite a bit, not unlike how the Crown's Game did last year, and for several of the same reasons.

The Bear and the Nightingale is about Vasilisa and her family. Since she was a young girl Vasya has been able to see the spirits of the forest and her house, which was never a problem until she got older and a powerful and dark god in the forest begins to try and take his power back.

I'm going to start with the positives, because the book wasn't all bad. The writing was gorgeous, for one, and the descriptions were so life like I could see everything clearly. I also loved the setting, which was historical Russia, which came alive as did everything else. Adding the touch of linguistics to the story as it was told brought me back to fond memories of reading Grisha for the first time, and I'll never complain about that. The beginning, too, was an incredibly strong start, and for the first 100 pages I was in love with the story. The near-ending (the fifty or so pages leading up to the climax) was also amazing and pulled from East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I wish more time had been spent with that part of the story since I could have bathed in that plot for ages.

It was the middle that dragged. One of the biggest problems was the number of characters the story tackled, and the limited number of pages. Had the story been stretched out to cover longer than it did, and more pages than it did, I don't think I would have minded the wide cast so much, but it all felt packed in with boring details that didn't really matter. It all ties up in the end, but with the amount of time spent following non-main characters around I was hoping they would all have a bigger impact than they did. Like I said, the near-ending was my favorite part, and when I got to that part it felt like everything before had been a very extended prologue, making me dislike it even more for keeping me from the interesting bits.

Since there were so many characters none of them felt as fully developed as they could have been. Too many of them depended on their plot line to be people, even our protagonist. I wanted characters that changed more because of themselves and not because the plot said they needed to.

TL;DR? The problems with slow plot and poor character development can't be overcome by the beautiful prose and few interesting parts, but some people will surely fall in love with it, and I just wish I could have been one of them.


  1. Lately I've seen this on quite a few lists to look forward to this year, but this is actually the first review I've seen for it. Very interesting - at least I know what it's about now. :)

    1. I think it's a good fit for some people, but it was just bleh for me, even though I wanted to like it. Haha, yes! I'd say give it a try if it sounds interesting because I'm curious to see what you think of it.

  2. Great review! I got this one on firsttoread and DNF'd. I found it just started out far too slow for me to get through. It seems like something I'd love on audio though, so I'm considering giving it a try there.

    1. It was a really slow start but I had high hopes. I'm surprised I didn't DNF it myself since I was fed up with it a bit in the middle where it was dragging even more. OO I bet an audio version would be really good. I'd be curious to see what you think of that version.


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