The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Grade A

Katherine Arden’s brilliant, mesmerizing fairy-mare (or is it night-tale?) is a magical and often spooky story about the peculiar goings on of a small Russian village in the distant past and a young girl named Vasya who channels and interacts with far more benevolent and malevolent creatures than the other villagers and members of her own family would like. Rich, engrossing, and hypnotic, I found myself thinking of both Alice in Wonderland and Pan’s Labyrinth throughout this mythical story as the tension built while Vasya, a tough, independent girl in a time when such characteristics labeled a girl a witch, clashed with her wicked stepmother and the deceitful village priest, finding a precarious alliance and friendship with the animals and otherworldly creatures that populate both her property and the mysterious forest that surrounds it. This is a stunning first novel with the details and language both pitch perfect and prose that flows lyrically and mellifluously from page to page. I was equally enchanted and filled with dread as the story reached its fantastical and sometimes gruesome climax. This is apparently part of a trilogy and as much as I tend to steer away from series, I very much look forward to following these characters further. A superb debut from a major new literary voice.

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel available now.

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