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The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy)

Author : Katherine Arden

Genre : Fantasy

I randomly picked up this book from the shelf of the bookstore and loved it from the start. It’s the first of three and imagines a war that really happened in 1380. Each story is self-contained, and follows the young girl, Vasilisa, through her trials and adventures. The other titles are The Girl in the Tower and The Winter Witch.

Katherine Arden has written a lush, fairy tale set in old Russia when magical beings protected the hearth and the stables, and roamed the forest and the freezing cold rivers. Vasilisa Petrovna, the main character, can see these ancient protectors and mischief-makers and befriends them, honors them, and feeds them, even though the Christian priests at the time consider them demons. Vasilisa’s run-ins with Morozko, the frost demon who is cold, capricious, and sometimes tender, are a wondrous thread through the books.

Her metaphors are delightful: “Closer still the girl crept, stealthy as a kitten after a grasshopper..” “The clouds lay like wet wool above the trees.” “His voice was like thunder, yet he placed each syllable like Dunya setting stitches. His voice was deep as rivers in spring.” “She was wrung out at the end, but calmer too. As though she’d laid the skeins of her life out neatly, and there was less of a tangle in her soul.”

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