The Bear and the Nightingale

Characters:    
Plot:   
Writing:    
Je ne sais quoi:     
Goodreads rating:     
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
If you like this you’ll like this: Graceling, except this is shorter

I’ve decided to start documenting my progress against the 100 book reading challenge I set forth on at the beginning of the year… Of which I’ve accomplished 10/100. Trending just a little below expectations, but, I have faith. I’m excited to share The Bear and the Nightingale as the first record on my blog, because, well, it was excellent. I’ll keep these short and sweet, with a blurb of how the book leaves you, and ratings among key dimensions.

The book is beautifully written. Lyrical, even. The story seamlessly intertwines Russian folklore, pagan gods, Christianity, with a rebellious present day heroine. The balance between them is just right. You need to spend a constant trickle of brain power to stay in the story, but it doesn’t lose you with details too technical or too far away. Magic abounds. The characters are exaggerated and enchanting, just as you want them to be. No, you can’t imagine them as your childhood best friend who sits next to you in English class, but yes, you can imagine them as what you idolize your best friend’s older brother to be as you drool at him when you’re over for a sleepover. This book makes you want to grow your hair long and ride bareback on a magnificent warhorse in hopes you catch the eye of the handsome and unobtainable frost demon. And believe you are enough to make him human. It’s hard to build much of a personal connection to the main character, but she’s there to pull you along. The side characters are much more complex. As I reflect on it, while not overtly so, the romanticism in this book is written by a girl to resonate most effectively with a female population. No way around it. Sorry boys!

“Because he could never look at his cross again without seeing her hand around it.”

“You cannot love and be immortal.” (Can you?)

Sidenote: I immediately picked up the sequel in the trilogy, The Girl in the Tower, and devoured it in less than a day. It’s worth reading because you’re invested in the characters, but it held none of the same lyricism as the first novel, as often tends to happen in trilogies. Nonetheless I’m hooked and have pre-ordered the third. Trilogies… They got me!!!

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