The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Del Rey, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101885932
Characteristics: 322 pages ; 25 cm
Call Number: ARDEN, K


From Library Staff

A Russian fairy tale come to life about the bond between a winter demon and a girl that goes against all expectations.

Vasya finds her affinity for Russian spirits has put her at odds with the religion that has come to her home.

Best Debut Goodreads Author Finalist and Best Fantasy Finalist

Best Fantasy Finalist

Beatricksy Jan 20, 2017

Simply put, gorgeous. It has a deep, quiet quality to it that's hard to express when you're still reeling from it. The atmosphere in this book is chilling. This is a universe that feels both so near and so far from reality, with a lively sense of wonder, magic, and fantasy glitter thrown into the... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
JCLLaurelA Jun 09, 2021

I'm not sure how to review this book, but I loved it! Strong characters and wonderful world building make a great opening of a trilogy. This story takes place in Old Russia, when the Rusalka, the Domovoi, the Leshy, and others are the spirits of the house and the woods. Christianity is slowly moving across Russia, and when faith in one religion grows, faith in the other shrinks. What happens when the faith that has been protecting you for centuries starts to fade? Vasilisa has the True Sight; she can see the creatures that others cannot, so she must be the one to protect her family when The Bear starts to break free of his bonds. When her choices as a woman of that time are either Marriage or the Convent, what can a girl who's determined to have neither do?

Feb 21, 2021

I loved the first 2/3 of the story despite the relentless religious preaching and harassment. I could feel something big was going to happen. Good fairy tales invite the reader to playfully suspend disbelief. But my suspension was stretched until it shattered as the story approached its conclusion.

Jan 29, 2021

I’m so glad I stumbled upon this book because I loved it!! I haven’t read a fairy tale in a really long time, and it was such a treat to dive back into that genre with a book so beautifully written. The intertwining of Russian language, culture, and stories made me nostalgic for my own Eastern European heritage and the time I spent there. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series!

LoganLib_Sheridan Jan 17, 2021

I don't know why but I have a weird soft spot for Russian folklore. This one is definitely a feminist take. Despite women having literally two choices in life (the home or the nunnery) this story manages to empower the protagonist and still have the femininity.

The priest lusts after Vasya but this too is feminist as he sees it as a weakness and controls it. This is also part of his toxic masculinity as he wants to rid her of her demons and make her a 'proper' woman. He doesn't necessarily want her under HIS power but he wants her under SOMEONES power.

I like the inclusion of horses as allies and Vasya's ability to understand them.

There is also the difference between Vasya and Anna. They both see the old gods but Anna thinks they are demons and wants to be rid of them to the detriment of her mental health. Vasya listens and becomes stronger for it.

I like the relationship between Vasya and the winter god. Give me an enigmatic all-powerful being whose seeking the help of a mortal woman he can't resist and I'm hooked. Add a mystical horse that is not exactly a horse and well... I was already won over okay!

The way Alyosha looks after Vasya is also loveable. He wants to help and protect his sister and he sees how everyone around her treats her and what they think of her. He's still on her side. To be fair I think all her family is but they aren't all there or able to do something.

Jan 02, 2021

This was a fun read. Many fantasy novels for adults are rote and predictable and lean too much on either darkness or sex. The mirrored Russian mythology was a nice touch. What an adventure!

Nov 27, 2020

An elegantly woven first instalment of the Winternight Trilogy set in the frigid wilderness of Russian. Follow the strong heroine Vasilisa as her village struggles with continuing to honour the cultural mythology of their past or following the church.

PimaLib_JanaB Oct 15, 2020

I want to review the whole series here because I stayed up way too late last night finishing it. This is mytho-historical fiction set in late 1300's Russia.

In a land of opposite extremes, Vasilisa Petrovna is always on the wrong side. She is pagan in the land of the Russian Orthodox Church. She is a woman in a male dominated society. She is a believer in the ancient ways who lives in a world longing to be modern. Vasya fears the land she loves is dying with the relentless march of time.

Vasya sees and nourishes the pagan nature spirits around her. Vasya's stepmother also sees these spirits, but she fears and hates them as demons. Vasya fights to keep the old gods from fading in the new world, but the evil around her in both the Christian church and her own spiteful deities forces her to shed her innocence and become a powerful woman in a time where such a person is not supposed to exist.

The prose is magical in the way it weaves this world around the reader. The author's note at the end states that some of the characters and events are factual, which only added to the enchantment for me. I finished this series 12 hours ago, and I already want to reread it.

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

A beautifully written fantasy set in medieval Russia, based on Russian folklore. It’s told in a whimsical, fairy-tale-like tone, with a very rich atmosphere. A great beginning to an amazing series. Recommended for fans of lyrical prose, magical realism, and atmospheric stories.

ArapahoePaige Jul 20, 2020

Vasilisa lives on the edge of a Russian forest in a place where mythic folk thrive until her father brings home a new wife, one who doesn’t believe in the fairy creatures. Vasilisa lives in a time of change, loves someone who shouldn’t exist and fights to save her family. Love this trilogy!

Jul 17, 2020

Excellent 1st book, love me some Russian tales, excellent fairy tale😉

View All Comments


Add a Quote
LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.”

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“It is time to put aside dreaming. Fairy tales are sweet on winter nights, nothing more.”

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“If this is the last decision I can ever make, at least it is my decision."

LCPL_Krystyna Oct 07, 2020

“Wild birds die in cages.”


Add Age Suitability
ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

ArapahoeKatieK thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


Add a Summary
ArapahoeKatieK May 23, 2018

A story about Russian folklore. A girl is born to a Russian landowner in the middle of winter and there is something special about her. A tomboy from an early age, she spends her first decade and a half figuring out who she really is and how to use her abilities, how to fight evil, and how to keep her family safe.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at DCL

To Top