The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1)

In my mind, I am lumping this book together with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, both because it is a fairy tale retelling, and also because of the slavic background.

This is Russia– and old Russia oweing allegiance to the Khan and populated by vodianoy and domovoi and the Winter-King. It is cold– and the warmest place is on top of a giant clay oven.

Into this Northern cold, a daughter is born, Vasilisa Petrovna, and she is slightly wild and learns to talk to horses. And no matter that her father loves her and tries to marry her off, she is not meant to be a wife. For the Bear, and his brother, the Winter-King Morozko also want her for their own purposes. When the dead walk, and snowdrops blossom in the snow, Vasilisa may be her people’s only hope against fear, famine, and the walking dead.

This novel, set in the cold Russia of days of yore, nevertheless is a slow burn. We meet Vasilisa as a baby and follow her upbringing, experiencing the day-to-day life of farmers and the narrow cage of what roles women are allowed. But it is beautiful in a pitiless way, and Vasilisa and Morozko are fascinating.

I love that Vasilisa is helped by Morozko, but is her own strength. As she tells her brother:

“But I will have my own freedom, Alyosha. Do you doubt me? I brought snowdrops to my stepmother when I ought to have died in the forest. Father is gone; there is no one to hinder. Tell me truly, what is there for me here but walls and cages? I will be free, and I will not count the cost.”

This is a lovely, deep-woven tale whose fairy tale beginnings recounted to Vasilisa as a child bear fruit in the end when she must defend her people. I am terribly, terrible glad to see that it is a trilogy, as the only issue I had with Novik’s Uprooted is that it ended. Waiting impatiently for the next in the trilogy.