Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Beautifully Written Russian Fantasy

Part fairy tale and part reality, The Bear and the Nightingale is an exceptionally moving story. In feudal Russia, a young girl is born. Her grandmother was reputed to have magical powers, and although her mother didn't have them, the young girl is able to see thingsother people cannot.

Living in a well-to-do family among a class of illiterate peasants, seeing spirits is a dangerous ability. The church frowns on any manifestation of the pagan beliefs that still occur in the region. The young girl, Vasya, has the ability to see helpful spirits and tries to aid the village through the long cold months of winter, but the priest and the peasants don't trust her and call her a witch.

This is the tale of Vasya's youth. The book is the first in a trilogy, so the next books should show more of her adulthood. The writing is beautiful. The tale takes place in the frozen North of Russia. Snow falls for much of the year covering the plains. The descriptions of the cold and icy whiteness are exceptional. It's worth reading the book for the descriptions.

Vasya is a fierce character. She believes that she must do what's right even if it goes against the church and her stepmother. You can't help but admire her.

Although this book is written in the style of a fairy tale, the background is historically accurate giving a glimpse of old Russia and the life of the minor nobility and peasants. I highly recommend the book.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.