Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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The Bear and the Nightingale is rooted in Russian fairy tales and mythic creatures, early Russian history back when Moscow paid tribute to the Mongol Empire, and spiritual warfare between Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Slavic pagan beliefs of the peasantry. It’s a straightforward story and a compulsive page-turner (always a plus for me these days) with an engaging storyteller voice.

Vasilisa Petronova is the last daughter born to Pyotr Vladimirovich and his first wife Marina. Independent, inquisitive, and more than a little stubborn and unruly, Vasilisa is most at home inside the surrounding forest and amongst the guardian spirits inhabiting her home and the land. Everything changes when her father brings home two additions to his household: Anna Ivanovna, his second wife, a devout Christian who fears and despises the household spirits as demons, and Konstantin Nikonovich, a priest with a magnetic presence, powerful voice, and deep-seated need for devotion. As Konstantin instills fear within Pytor’s people, the guardian spirits wither, and the village’s strength weakens. But more is at stake than just the village. Medvev, the Bear, has been entrapped for several years, but he is slowly growing strong enough to break free and gorge himself on the fear of the world.

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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I hadn’t intended to read Uprooted—I’d read His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik’s first book in her fantasy/alt-history series a couple years ago, and while I liked her writing just fine, my reaction to the book itself was lukewarm. (I love dragons. LOVE them. Napoleonic battles? Not so much.) But Uprooted has been this year’s standalone fantasy novel that seemingly everyone on the Internet was raving about, and then I saw several of my favorite authors had provided blurbs. So I went and put a hold on it at the library. My thoughts? Are mixed.

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