Recently I picked up The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden while looking for a good fantasy novel. I chose The Bear and the Nightingale because it was blurbed Robin Hobb along with some other fantasy heavy hitters. The Bear and the Nightingale follows Vasilisa, as she grows up in Russia, with the ability to see and interact with spirits and creatures of folklore. Read the goodreads summary here.
I had a good time reading this novel. It had an original plotline and many of the characters caught my interest. But the best part of this novel for me was the Russian setting. The author did a fantastic job describing the cold winters and the warmer springs. I felt I was there bundled up close to the oven with the rest of the family. The first half of the novel was filled with these descriptive scenes but they were something I missed in the second half of the novel.
I felt like the majority of this book was hit or miss. Some parts were fantastic and some parts were just okay. At times the book felt like a group of fantastic scenes put together. The transitions between scenes were not quite as strong and were lacking the magic the rest of the book had. Since the book skipped from scene to scene I wasn’t able to invest in any of the characters, not even the main character Vasilisa. But this may be just a personal preference of mine. I never seem to be able to get invested in books with multiple perspectives. The Bear and the Nightingale switched perspectives fairly frequently and sometimes for just a few paragraphs. This was a little jarring to me. The author seems to have gotten caught up in some of the side plot lines, which left less time for the conclusion of the novel and the climax of the novel felt a bit forced and rushed.
Overall, I thought that this was an entertaining novel that kept my attention. I would give it 3/5 stars. However, I think this book gave me a pretty good idea of what this author is capable of and I am interested in reading the next book in the series.