Book Review: ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden

Posted in Book Reviews
on May 29, 2017

Dear Reader,

After seeing this book fly around the bookstagram community, it certainly tempted me. And it was just my luck to find the hardcover staring straight at me, at my local library. As, after realising my bank balance can’t sustain my appetite for books I have decidedly gone and started taking out books and ordering them in (alongside buying). I highly suggest this for any budding book reviewer as it really does help and it is certainly rewarding when you find beautiful hardcovers such as this.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • Hardback – 328 pages 
  • Release Date: 12th January 2017
  • Published by: Ebury Press
  • ISBN: 178503104X
  •  Goodreads page for the novel here

Blurb:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.- [blurb from Goodreads]


My Review:

The first thing that drew me to this book was that it was promising Russian fairytales and I am a huge fan of these, alongside Russian fables. The fact that this was also Katherine Arden’s debut novel had be fawning over the blurb and the beautiful cover. You can really tell her imagination has been enchanted by these classic tales also. The novel is really well written for an adult fairytale and has some excellent characters. Obviously the wild and untamed Vasya was my favourite.

Another thing that really pleasantly surprised me was the fact that Arden has really encompassed religion into this novel. A theme which I didn’t think would be as prominent as it was. This really gives way to an intriguing plot and I loved the way in which certain character reacted (or didn’t!) to this theme. Another point I really loved was the massive emphasis on family, especially the brothers and sisters of Vasya. There is a huge sense of the strong bond between family and this is really shown at certain points of the novel.

Photo of book taken from my bookstagram.

The only thing I didn’t particularly like was the treatment of women and the perspective of them by certain characters. I get Arden is trying to stick to the time period but I felt certain things were exaggerated when they didn’t have to be especially the fact that women are only meant to bear children. Maybe this is because I’m so strongly against this view that it got under my skin? Who knows. Afterall, it is set in Medieval Russia.

To conclude, this novel is really something else and I will be delighted to read more about Vasya in the sequel. I thank bookstagram once again for showing me beautiful novels.And, I was honestly devastated when I came to the end of the beautiful realised world that Arden had created.

SIDE NOTE: I do realise some people do skip the author’s note (something I see as sacrilege) but the end note was really lovely by Arden. It explained that she mixed the Russian words with English in an attempt to transliterate aiming to retain Russian roots and for English readers to be able to pronounce. I have to say a strong point of the novel was how enchanting all the names of the characters to even objects were so really interested in this point.


If you have any questions or would like to contact me please email me at imogen.thompson96@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Love,

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Book Review: ‘Reckless- The Petrified Flesh’ by Cornelia Funke

Posted in Book Reviews
on May 25, 2017

Dear Reader,

A very good friend of mine suggest I read this book and I have been promising for a while now. BOY! I have been missing out. Cornelia Funke was one of my favourite authors when I was younger. I absolutely adored the Inkheart Trilogy  and somehow never read the Mirrorworld series. To me, Cornelia writes with such fluidity that the characters, world and story all just knit together and this was clearly seen within this novel. I have just ordered the second book as we speak because I am so ready to get immersed within the rest of the story. I love a good trilogy, who doesn’t?

  • Reckless- The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke
  • Paperback Edition – 346 pages 
  • Release Date: 29th September 2016
  • Published by: Pushkin Children’s Books
  • ISBN: 0989165647
  •  Goodreads page for the novel here

Blurb:

“Jacob has uncovered the doorway to another world, hidden behind a mirror. It is a place of dark magic and enchanted objects, scheming dwarves and fearsome ogres, fairies born from water and men born from stone. 

Here, he hunts for treasure and seeks adventure in the company of Fox- a beautiful, shapeshifting girl who guides and guards him. 

But now Jacob’s younger brother has followed him into the mirrored world, and all that was freedom has turned to fear. Because a deadly curse has been spoken; and Jacob must risk his life to reverse it, before his brother is turned to stone forever…”-[blurb from my copy of the novel]

Map of the Mirrorworld taken from my     bookstagram.


My Review:

Before I would like to start my review I would like to say that the copy of Reckless that I have is the edition that has been re-published, revised and updated by Cornelia Funke herself only last year. After being told to buy this ferociously (I quickly bought) I didn’t know what to expect at all. The blurb suggests so much fanatical happening so I really hoped it lived up to it. And… IT DID.

Anyone who knows my taste in books knows how much I love dark fantasy and fairytales. This was everything and more. Firstly, I completely and utterly fell in love with Funke’s idea of the Mirrorworld itself. The idea of stepping through a mirror into a fairytale world is beautiful and an idea I’ve not read before. The world itself is very dark, the creatures aren’t from your Disney standard tale, these are dark characters who are bound to try and kill you. I was surprised to see that it is published under Children’s. I get the young adult/adult feel. Even though directly there’s no gore, there is still a suggestion of it. For example, the character of the Tailor ( I honestly had a nightmare after reading this chapter before bed) but GAH! He is incredibly creepy and if you’ve read the book y’know what I’m talking about.

Another HUGE plus for this book is the fact that Funke brings other classic fairytales into it. You can see she has been totally inspired by The Black Forest in Germany and I get a very huge Grimm brothers vibe from the whole book. Who doesn’t like intertextuality? And especially of twisting fairytales into dark tales filled with oozily juicy descriptions. The whole book is in fact one big fairytale and what excites me so much is…IT IS NOT OVER. THERE ARE TWO MORE BOOKS. I feel like I am going to drag this series out just so I can savour it some more.

The beautiful illustration shown on the title page (there’s illustrations throughout). Photo from my bookstagram.

Okay. Back to the book. Right. The premise of the whole novel is obviously between the daring Jacob and the pursuit to save his slightly coddled brother, Will. Therefore, YAY FOR SIBLINGS FIGHTING FOR ONE ANOTHER. I loved how the brothers were quite opposite in character too. As Jacob is the more daring, being a treasure hunter in the Mirrorworld, but he also has his flaws. Like a lot. He is a bit of a man whore and did leave his dying mother. OUCH.  There was a massive lack of feeling in Jacob which I would say is something that was a let down for me. FUNKE GIVE THE BOY SOME MORE HEART. However, this was refreshing to see of a protagonist. Whilst, even though his brother had flaws he seemed more of the pure of the two. After all he did have a straightforward love interest in Clara and appeared innocently naive. But as a typical person and reader who loves a bad boy…of course I preferred Jacob. It was his need to save his brother that got me and the connection he had a certain fox-girl.

NOW. This certain fox shape-shifter, conveniently named Fox, really stole my heart. For one her backstory had me gushing. I won’t ruin anything. Then she has this way of observing the world around her and just knowing things. I would love to see her character developed a lot deeper and I really hope she as, as she soon became my favourite character. She wasn’t good or bad, but something in between.

This novel has left me inspired and intrigued. Funke had me at the first page and I wish I was able to write something as utterly gorgeous. As stated I have ordered the next one and cannot wait to read the others. If you’ve not read this book I highly suggest you do (and you can chat books with me).  The cover’s are to die for, the illustrations are luscious and the story inside is beautifully crafted. Come join the Mirrorworld series and be enchanted.


If you have any questions or would like to contact me please email me at imogen.thompson96@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Love,

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