Book Review

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

If you hate spoilers, don’t look at the picture of the horses. Oh. Too late. Now you’re stuck reading a book review.

I suppose if I were a truly omnivorous reader, I would value every reading experience equally. But I don’t. For instance, I avoid reading those small print multi-page mailings I occasionally receive from a credit card company delineating some minor change in its relationship with me, even though I know a tiny person hunched over a wee typewriter spent hours typing it with her miniscule fingers.

Furthermore, I am instantly suspicious of a person who writes a book review. Recommending books is a bit like recommending a sex partner. Just because the reviewer liked the way he made her feel doesn’t mean I will. Which sounds pretty hostile, especially for someone who is about to present you with a book review.

I’ve become choosy. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I’ve found that like cooking dinner, the more work a book takes to complete, the less likely it is to be enjoyable.

Which is a long way of saying if I finish a book, I know I liked it. And I did like The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed fairy tales although I do think writing fairy tales for adults is risky business. Successful fairy tales for children, the stories which have survived over time, are not preachy. They are gory and harsh, with no perceptible political message. Maybe they had one once, but we don’t remember it now.

It’s harder for adults writing for an adult audience to resist the siren call of moralizing, especially since adult readers are prone to looking for secondary meanings. But Arden mostly avoids that, which is impressive because it is her first novel. Instead she kept me focused on a fascinating time in Russian history about which I knew nothing. And now can say I know a little bit.

If you decide to read The Bear and the Nightingale, be aware there is a useful glossary of terms in the back I wish I had known about to begin with. But because Arden writes so well, I didn’t really need it.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.