First Line Friday: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

First line: “It was late winter in northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.”


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.

40004709After 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. [from Goodreads]


The Bear and the Nightengale by Katherine Arden is my current read and I have heard many good things about this one. I am about 25% into it and so far its a little slow, but I do like the wintery vibes, and there’s always something about Russian folklore that is so mystical and special to me. I have always enjoyed Russian music, history, and poetry, so I am eager to see if the book lives up to the hype around it.

How about you – have you read this book? What did you think? What other books do you feel have a strong winter vibe?


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