The Bear and the Nightingale - Book Review

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year. But Pyotr, Marina and their 4 children don’t mind, they spend the nights huddled around the Kitchen fire listening to their nurse tell stories. Above all, they love the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, the nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

Years after Marina died in childbirth to their last child - Vasilia Petrovna - Pyotr goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother and the priest she brings with her forbid them family from honoring the household spirits. The family gives in, but Vasya is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, children die and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasya’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger comes closer than ever before, Vasilisa must defy the people she loves and call on a dangerous gift she has concealed her whole life in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

‘I loved this book. It was a beutiffuly complex plot; the perfect mix of Russian folklore and western religion. The presentation of characters was exceptional as were the themes of human ignorance and fear’

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