‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ – Katherine Arden

Something a little different here. Thank you NetGalley for granting me access to this; it was the kind of book I might not have picked up otherwise, but that would have been a real shame.

Our story focuses on ‘wild girl’ Vasya – basically, a girl who is not conventionally pretty and who does not fulfil the expectations her society has of her. There’s a strong sense that her mother might have had some witch-blood and this is enough to mark her as different.

This is not a grip-you-from-the-start read; a slow-burner, it takes time to immerse ourselves in the world and come to understand how these people live/what is important to them. We have a blending of new religion and old beliefs, and this causes a dangerous scenario.

When Vasya’s father brings home a new wife from Moscow she is determined to make her mark. She forbids the family to continue their traditions of feeding the spirits that protect their homes, and determines to have Vasya placed in a convent. As the village weakens, the new priest plays a key role in what transpires. The question is whether Vasya will have the strength to play her own part in this story…

I admit that even having finished the book I am not totally certain who the two brothers are and why they have chosen Vasya as the object of their affection, but this was a compelling read. The world-building was elaborate and there was a wonderful sense of fairy-tale to this.

I personally can’t wait to read part two when it is released.