Blogmas Day 10 – Review: The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Helloooo everyone! Welcome to another day of Blogmas 2018 and it’s time for another review of a Christmassy book! Some more good, old book blog content with a festive twist.

This book turned up as such a popular Christmas reading choice when I did my research back in October and I couldn’t help but choose it to read for Blogmas! 🎄📚

IMG-3779.JPGBlurb: Beware the evil in the woods… In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church. But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: Del Rey, an imprint of Ebury, owned by Penguin Random House

Genre: Fiction, Historical, Fantasy


This book is set in the deep Russian winter, snow coating the ground and wind whipping in the air. We follow the young life of Vasya, daughter of a woman with unexplained gifts, as she grows into her destiny. Often disregarded by the village people for being too wild, or a witch, they owe Vasya and her courage more than they know.

I picked up this book as a festive read for the season. While it was set in winter and one of the most prominent parts of the book is the talk of just how cold the weather is, there isn’t talk of Christmas or anything like that which might be something to note if you’re looking for a novel about the holidays.

Despite that, I really enjoyed reading this book. I devoured it in about three days, loving each chapter and desperate to find out what happened next. I loved the storytelling in this book as it really swept me away and found me looking up from my book only to realise I wasn’t deep in the Russian forest. The setting of the book felt almost magical, with something unexplained twirling in the air. The characters felt familiar to me, Dunya felt like a real motherly figure and her caring nature reminded me of my own mom, often making a fuss of keeping me warm in the cold. I fell slightly in love with Vasya and her strong spirit. The way that she always took charge, did everything in her power to keep those that she loved safe and didn’t let the mutterings of others get to her.

As a history nerd, I also appreciated that this book was set back in the c. 10th century. I always like it when a book mentions something that I know from my studies (the mention of Byzantium’s trading relationship with the Rus, for example) and it gave the story another dimension to make it all the more interesting. The time period made it more believable that there was a mental war between the Old Gods and the new, with societies being split.

Coming to what I disliked, there really wasn’t much. There were lots of long names to remember throughout the book (which spans about fourteen years, give or take) and with that comes some slight confusion until you can make the connection. As well as that, some of the main characters have different variations of their names. This isn’t as confusing if you understand that they’re used for different reasons depending on context but might throw you off for a second in the beginning. Despite all of this, for me, it didn’t take away the enjoyment from this story and I’m itching to start the next instalment of the series.

Overall, this was a beautifully crafted story, with well-written characters and a magical touch. I’d definitely recommend this book if you like your novels with a historical setting, splashes of folklore and a strong female lead. But, if you’re looking for a Christmas related read for a specific purpose then this one might not be the best choice.

Rating: 4/5

Recommend?: Yes

Have you read this book? Or is this book on your TBR list? I’d love to know!

Thank you for checking out my Blogmas 2018 posts and I can’t wait to share the rest with you! Check back tomorrow for more festive fun 🎅🏻

I’d also just like to point out that I don’t want to cause any offence to those who don’t celebrate Christmas, these posts are just a bit of fun to go along with my own personal celebrations.

You can always find me over on Instagram and Twitter if you fancy a book (or Christmas) chat! 😌🎄


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13 thoughts on “Blogmas Day 10 – Review: The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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