There is a bit of a curse in being a book lover—there are many, many books in this world and try though you might, you can't read all of them. I’m occasionally struck by an overwhelming dread about this fact, and I know I’m not alone. The thing is, even if you’re not on an epic quest to read every book ever written, there are still so many books and more come out every Tuesday. How do you choose?
It is a wonderful and horrible problem to have—this indecision, but we here at Third Place Books would like to help you out a little bit by highlighting our favorite new releases, on New Release Tuesday.
So here we go!
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale begins with Vasya and her sibling huddled around a fireplace as their nurse spins tales about Frost, the winter demon. Arden’s voice and world building is strong—she envelops you with sensory details of Vasilisa’s world. Reading the opening pages you can almost feel the sharp bite of cold as you come in from outside. The fire is warm, the smell of honey cakes redolent in the air, and the creaky, worn voice of the storyteller beckons you to sit closer. The story is rich with fairy tale elements, but also steadied by the reality of 14th century Russia.
My coworker, Vlad, states it more eloquently:
What struck me from the very first paragraph in The Bear and the Nightingale was the confidence of the writing; I was immediately pulled into a liminal space, between historical and fable. The lives of Vasya and her family, and their medieval Russian culture are painted in evocative detail, and yet Arden effortlessly slips the reader into this fantastical layer of ancient spirits large and small that permeates the Russian countryside.
The book draws from a wealth of folklore and fable without losing a certain modern appeal: Vasya's struggle as a young woman against a strict patriarchal tradition; the clash between faiths—the old beliefs versus Christianity; the ageless human urges and failings, vanity, deceit, lust, fear.
Arden's prose itself is lively and engaging, and bolsters the intricate balance of her story.
There is, in fact, a heady richness to the novel, and it’s especially remarkable when you consider that the book is Arden’s debut. The Bear and the Nightingale immediately puts her into good company—the book is being likened to the works of Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, and Naomi Novik. I would recommend her for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s books as well.
And luckily, this book is just the first course. The Bear and the Nightingale is the first book in a three book series, so you have more to look forward to. The book hits the shelves today, so come on down and take a peek. (Or you can even take a sneak peek on Katherine Arden’s website as she has some excerpts posted!)