From the very start of the book, I am hooked.
And that is not a usual thing. I am a reader of many books. By that I mean that I tend to read several things at once. So it can sometimes take me several tries to get into a book.
(You might just wonder then, why not just concentrate and read that one book, finish it, and then move on to another? Well, that’s just not the way I work. I just like multiple books going on!)
First of all, I love that it’s a fairytale. And more than that, that it’s a snowy, wintry kind of read. I have lived most of my life near the equator – where the only seasons are hot and dry or hot and rainy. And I now live in Northern California where winters are, at the most, rainy, although we could easily drive a few hours to find snow. So I’ve never really been in that kind of dense and intense winters that the north of Russia must have.
Vasilisa is the youngest child of a wealthy lord of a northern Russian village. She can see the spirits of the house, forest, river, the spirits that protect them from evil, like the domovoi, which lives in the oven. Her new stepmother can see these spirits too, but she calls them demons and seeks refuge in the church. She soon forbids the household from honoring these spirits with offerings. But Vasya tries to continue this ritual when she can, fearing that something bad is about to happen.
“The domovoi was small and squat and brown. He had a long beard and brilliant eyes. At night he crept out of the oven to wipe the plates and scour away the soot. He used to do mending, too, when people left it out, but Anna would shriek if she saw a stray shirt, and few of the servants would risk her anger. Before Vasya’s stepmother arrived, they had left offerings for him: a bowl of milk or a bit of bread. But Anna shrieked then, too. Dunya and the serving-maids had begun hiding their offerings in odd corners where Anna rarely came.”
Things get even more interesting when Father Konstantin is sent to their village and the villagers grow more fearful, and so is bold and brave Vasya.
“No, Vasya was frightened of her own people. They did not joke on the way to church anymore; they listened to Father Konstantin in heavy, hungry silence. And even when they were not in church, the people made excuses to visit his room.”
Something is waking, something evil. And without these spirits’ protection, crops start failing, the creatures of the forest roam closer, danger lurks.
The Bear and the Nightingale was an absolute charmer of a book. I loved all the Russian folklore throughout and the rural setting. Perhaps the only part that didn’t sit too well with me was the last act, which seemed a bit rushed.
This is my fourth read for RIP XII