Staff Pick

bear and nightingale book cover imageThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (2017)

Vasilisa, a young Russian girl, can see spirits that no one else seems to be able to. As her village has strayed from the old beliefs and become increasingly Christian, these beings have grown weaker from inattention. Vasilisa feeds and respects the creatures, keeping them strong enough to protect her home and family from the evil she knows is lurking. But after her mother dies and her father marries a devout, stern Christian woman who forbids her honoring of the spirits and old ways, misfortune and danger come ever closer to their family. Fearing for her family and the future her stepmother has planned for her, Vasilisa sets off on an adventure into the unknown, encountering fairy tales and nightmares along the way.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a magical—if dark—story that feels like an ancient legend to be told on a cold, snowy night. With beautiful folklore, rich culture, a strong central character, monsters and more, this novel is more than worthy of curling up with and getting lost in the wintry wilderness of Russia.

Review by Sarah Willadsen