- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 11 hours and 48 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Random House AudioBooks
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 12 Jan. 2017
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01N4EU4CZ
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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The Bear and the Nightingale: Winternight, Book 1 Audiobook – Unabridged
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The Bear and The Nightingale is a grown up version of a fairytale set in Russia dealing with loss, grief, family struggles, forbidden love with a wonderful mystery of mythology and unknown magical creatures.
I have to admit it did take me a little while to get into the story but once I reminded myself of the particular genre I was reading my mindset saw the words differently. Once I got my head into the characters and the raw struggle of survival in a very cold Russian countryside I was spellbound. The magical creatures, that only few can see, fascinated me and I was eager for more. I felt like the creatures were there for moralistic reasons and were the villager’s guardians. The dark scenes were dramatic and traumatic and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages. I could almost picture the scenes played out in a big blockbuster movie! There is a forbidden love that someone is fighting desperately with their conscious and with a higher power. I adored this novel, its good to step out of your comfort zone and read something a little out of the ordinary. This book and it’s story would look impressive with a big movie budget bringing all the characters and creatures to life, a blockbuster in the making. 5/5*
This is an entrancing story, which swept me up from the very first chapter. It is a wonderful blend of historical fiction, set during the times when Rus was still under the dominance of the Golden Horde, and mythical folklore, with an adult fairy-tale like feel. The wintry setting is completely captivating, making it the perfect read for dark nights; Arden's writing beautifully descriptive and lyrical.
The story unfolds slowly, with layers that gradually reveal themselves. It is a story about the clash of two cultures and belief systems, a story of the confined lives of women at the time and a girl who doesn't conform, a story of family ties and the daily struggles of a harsh way of life, and of course it is a story of magic. All these themes are wonderfully entwined together, with characters that resonate from the pages, even the more secondary ones such as Vasya's brother Sasha.
Some readers might feel uncomfortable with the portrayal of Christian beliefs in the story, however, personally, I didn't see the book as anti-Christian; and certainly there are Christian characters who are well portrayed such as Sasha, who goes to be a monk. However, the story does show how religion can be used in the wrong way, e.g.to muster fear. I personally thought that the character of Father Konstantin was very well portrayed; he was shown as a complex individual, who despite his beliefs, was also fighting certain desires, and clearly also revelled in the power he wielded over people through his position. Ultimately his vulnerabilities lead him to fall under false influence; and it is that false influence which is the true darkness at work in the story. I liked the complex relationship between Konstantin and Vasya; how is he both tempted by her, and also demonises her. I also liked the symbolism behind the Bear in the story; how his power feeds on people's fear.
I loved all the little household spirits; I think the Domovoi and Vazila were my favourites; and I was fascinated to read up further on Russia folklore, as I was previously completely unfamiliar with any of it. The character of Morozko, the Winter-King or frost-demon I thought was very intriguing; and I am interested in where Arden plans to go with him. There is the hint of possible romance, and yet one gets the feeling that Morozko is concealing quite a lot from Vasya. As this is the first of a trilogy, I was certainly left with unanswered questions related to Vasya's heritage and it's future significance.
There is plenty more I could say about the story and its various characters, which is testament to just how much I enjoyed it. The Bear and the Nightingale, for me, is one of those rare reads, that you know will stay with you for a long time; a book that encapsulates the magic and art of story-telling. I only hope the sequel will live up to expectations!
I'm really glad I bought it "sight unseen" as I would almost certainly not have invested in it had I encountered it in a bookshop: the publisher must have had something in mind with the cover and the blurb on the back and inside the cover, but they would not have sold me the book which would have been a shame because they are not representative of the story and I would have missed out on a real treat.
The story is a robust mix of folk tales that escape from the fireside and roam the woods, even sneaking back into the house when the family aren't careful enough. The domoviye are a real part of people's lives and blend naturally with the developing Christianity provided no one tries to push the boundaries too hard. And the harsh winters give rise naturally to stories of ice and snow incarnate.
"The Bear and the Nightingale" is a stunning debut novel. Katherine Arden has a well judged turn of phrase and moves the plot on at just the right pace. The historic setting is credible and the characters believable so that when something steps out of the world of folk myths neither the people in the story nor the reader are in the least bit surprised.
If I was to pick one fault it would be with the editor who let a few small things slip past: not large enough to cause any real damage, but noticeable nonetheless.