The Bear and the Nightingale

Lovely images, poetic prose, dubious theology, charismatic characters – Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale is a delightful novel to read, though perhaps not one that bears deep analysis. Much like Liz Williams' Nine Layers of Sky, Arden draws artfully upon Russian folklore and builds an enchanting story. A sample from Chapter 4:

The stable-yard seethed with bodies, with beasts, with sledges. Furs lay mounded beside boxes of beeswax and candles. The jars of mead and honey jostled for room with bundles of dried provisions. Kolya was directing the loading of the last sledge, his nose red in the morning chill. He had his mother's black eyes; the serving-girls giggled as he passed.

A basket fell with a thud and a puff of dry snow, almost under the feet of a sledge-horse. The beast shied forward and sideways. Kolya sprang out of the way, and Pyotr started forward, but Sasha was before them. He was off his mare like a cat, and next instant had caught the horse by its headstall, talking into its ear. The horse stilled, looking abashed. Pyotr watched as Sasha pointed, said something. The men hurried to take the horse's rein and seize the offending basket. Sasha said something else, grinning, and they all laughed. The boy remounted his mare. His seat was better than his brother's; he had an affinity for horses, and he bore his sword with grace. A warrior born, thought Pyotr, and a leader of men; Marina, I am fortunate in my sons.

... and ah, yes, wonderous horses and magical beasts, plus adventurous young people whose coming-of-age propel the plot. Great Goodness!

^z - 2021-06-22