Taking place in a remote village on the outskirts of a forest in Russia, this series sets a beautifully frightening scene filled with snow, cozy fires, folklore, and winter’s harsh reality.
Katherine Arden combines Russian folklore with aspects of history, magic, and life to create a series that is captivating and hard to put down, which is a perfect book to read during winter. She will also explain a bit about history, why she choose her setting and some background to the folklore she references in her story. I got this book as a gift and within a month had read the whole series; all while sitting inside with a hot cup of tea not having to put one foot in the snow.
What happened in The Bear And The Nightingale Series?
The first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale, sets up our main character, Vasya’s, life. The book really starts after she is born , when she turns about 6 years old. We see her become a rambunctious, adventurous child — someone who would rather be outside in a tree than sewing by the fire. During the time period this book occurs in, women who did things that would be considered ‘manly’ were frowned upon and often cast out. While Vasya knew this, she ignored it and instead spent her life as she wished. She was able to be free spirited and exploring nature and her world.
As she grew up she realized she could see things that others could not. As she started exploring this hidden world, her father decided she needed a mother figure in her life to help her grow up to be a respectable young women. We get to be with her as she discovers her ‘secret’ world, we are with her as she receives a new step mom who also sees this world but believes it to be devils who haunt and plague her.
Between Vasya who loved and understood this world and her stepmother who is terrified and murderous towards it, we see how her life changes. Along with her stepmother, Christianity is brought to her small town. As the story goes on we see how the priest of the town, her stepmom, and her are all thrown into a tale of mystery, intrigue, skepticism and betrayal.
This first book is full of twists, turns, magic, family, and clashing religions. It’s written so you want to never put it down and makes you want to know what happens next.
The Girl in the Tower – Book Two
The second book in the The Bear And The Nightingale series is called The Girl in the Tower. In this book you really start to see who Vasya is becoming and the life she is choosing. You will be dragged through decision after decision, world after world, and religion after religion, trying to decided what to do and who to be. You will also start to see the beginning of a romance between Vasya and A winter king.
And see the relationship between her world, religion, and the new priest in the town. Without reveling too much this second book really details the world they live in, explains the magic behind what Vasya can see, and builds relationships from the priest to the villagers so full of tension you could feel it outside the book.
The Winter of the Witch – Book Three
Now the third book — The Winter of the Witch, is an explosive ending to the The Bear And The Nightingale series. You have war, you have love, you have to decide to be yourself, you have family, and you have drama. You have heroes, and villains — and neither are black and white. You start to see a bit of grey in everyone and everything. Through this fiery book you get the last of your questions answered.
Overall this series is a great series and perfect for these winter months. They are something to curl up with and be engaged. You will hopefully find it a joy to read like I did, and something to entertain yourself this winter season!