Publisher: Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine, Del Ray
Date of publication: January 10th, 2017
Series: Winternight Trilogy
The Bear and the Nightingale—Book 1
The Girl in the Tower—Book 2
The Winter of the Witch—Book 3
Where you can find this book: Amazon
Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.
Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village.
But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
The book starts on a late winter night in northern Rus’ (Russia) in Pytor Vladimirovich’s house. Dunya and the children were gathered around the oven. Dunya was about to tell the children a folktale about the frost-demon, the winter-king Karachun, when their mother, Marina, came in and joined in listening. Pytor was outside, assisting a ewe in giving birth. When he came in, Marina told him her news. She was expecting another child. This child would be like her mother, who was known as a witch-woman and had mysterious powers. She could tame animals, dream the future and summon rain. Pytor was worried about the news. Marina wasn’t a young woman, and he was afraid that she wouldn’t be strong enough for birth.
He was right. Marina died shortly after giving birth to Vasilisa (Vasya), and what she predicted came true. Vasya was a headstrong, willful, and almost feral. She also inherited her grandmother’s powers.
When she was six years old, she got lost in the forest outside her house and came upon an older man sleeping in the roots of a tree. Thinking that she could wake him up and he would know the way to her father’s house, she shook him. Only to find out that he is a hideously disfigured man. One eye was missing, with the socket sewn shut and with hideous scars on that side of her face. Still, she invites him back to her house if he can take her home. Then a genuinely supernatural thing happens, as she goes to take this stranger’s hand, a man on a white horse comes thundering to where they were, makes the older man go back to sleep and frightens Vasya, who ends up being found by Sascha, her beloved older brother.
After that escapade that Pytor decides to head to Moscow and get a wife for himself. He takes Sasha and Kolya with him. While he was there, he meets a mysterious stranger who gives him a beautiful jewel and tells him to hold on to it until Vasya gets older. If he doesn’t, this strange man will come after and kill Kolya.
Pytor does find a wife while in Moscow. His late wife’s half brother’s daughter, who sees demons and is classified as mad by her father, stepmother, and servants. Anna is her name, and she becomes my least favorite person in the book. After discovering that Vasya can talk to the household spirits and non-household spirits, Anna would beat her to get her repent. Not that it did any good. Vasya only became more feral, more headstrong.
When Vasya turns fourteen, a new priest is sent to her village since the old one has died. Anna begs the Metropolitan to send a new one, and they did. A young priest named Konstantin Nikonovich, who is considered somewhat of an upstart, is sent there to straighten him out. Anna is thrilled because he is driving out the demons (aka the household spirits) that she sees. Vasya, not so much, and she resorts to leaving offerings for them where her stepmother can’t see them or in rooms where she doesn’t go.
It is during that time that the mysterious man makes an appearance in Dunya’s dream, and he demands that she give Vasya the necklace. Dunya makes a bargain with him to wait another year to give it to her. In that year, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
I loved Vasya. She was a spunky girl who called it like it was and wasn’t afraid to stand up to anyone or anything. I did think, at one point, that her spunkiness was going to get her killed, but it didn’t.
The end of the book is a must-read. It was fantastic. The very end of the book, though, is what got me, and it made me smile.
I would give The Bear and The Nightingale an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is no language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.
I would reread The Bear and The Nightingale. I would recommend it to family and friends.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**