The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

First Read Dates: September 6, 2018 – September 17, 2018
Re-read Dates: January 15, 2023 – January 22, 2023
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Source: Owned paperback


“All my life,” she said, “I have been told “go” and “come”. I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me. Please. Please let me help you.”

I never gave this book the proper review it deserved. Not because I didn’t want to. Just because I wasn’t really into reviewing books quite yet when I picked this one up. The following two books in the Winternight series got written reviews (which I will have to go look at and tweak probably because I was just a baby reviewer at that point) but I didn’t give this one its due diligence. So I am here now to correct this.

This series. Not just this book but this SERIES, was and still is one of my all-time favorites. In terms of favorites series, the Winternight trilogy is my number one favorite series of all time. ACOTAR has taken its place right beneath in the second spot and my third favorite is An Ember in the Ashes and all of its following books in that series. In case anyone was curious.


I recently had the privilege of participating in a read-along with KATHERINE ARDEN herself! It has been such a dream re-reading my all-time favorite series and having the opportunity to not only see the author’s personal thoughts and notes but then to also have a little book discussion with the author herself weekly on Instagram Live. I didn’t think I could love this series any more than I already did but this re-read has given me even deeper insights into the characters, the legends, and the lore behind these characters and their stories and it has brought me to such a deeper level of respect for these books and especially for their author.

I’ve always loved a good dark fairytale. Even more so when it was a good non-American fairytale. Something about reading these stories from other countries and learning about all of their legends and beliefs and myths sets my soul alight with wonder and awe. So when I saw this book was based in medieval Russia, I immediately sought it out to read. I admit, on the first read, I felt the beginning was dragging a tad. I did NOT feel that way my second time around. Maybe because I was still a bit naïve and not well versed in the type of language used? I’m not sure of the reason. But this second time around, I was completely entranced. I felt like I was there, sitting around the oven with Pyotr and his family as Dunya told them stories of Winter Kings and maidens in the wood. Of doweries and bodies frozen dead with just a touch.

I loved all of the house spirits during my first read but I felt them on a deeper level this time. Maybe because we recently moved into our own home and I can now picture what they would be like stalking around my house eating crumbs and sweeping dust and dirt away.

“…You are only a child; your bits of bread and honey-wine cannot sustain the household-spirits. Not forever. The Bear is awake.”

The world Arden has created is pure magic and wonder and, while I appreciated it the first time around, I appreciated everything that much more the second time around. I caught things I had missed before. Understood things I hadn’t before. Foresaw things I did not foresee the first time. (It was, after all, a re-read.) But even though this was a second read for me, there were things, aspects, and specifics that I had forgotten. These stories have been living rent-free in my brain since I read them back in 2018/2019. Except now, they’re taking up even more space in my head. Because, ya know, I’m obsessed.

Morozko was my first official self-proclaimed book boyfriend. I had loved characters in the past but no one ever measured up enough to be put on that list. Morozko was the first. He will forever remain at the very top of that list.

“Sleep is cousin to death, Vasya,” he murmured over her head. “And both are mine.”

Aside from the magic and wonder of the world and the story happening, the characters were so well written. They were so well thought out to the point that they were given life. Real life. They felt real. They were given a set of morals and ideals just as any real living person would have and they kept to character the way someone in reality would. Not a single character ever felt forced, pointless, or unbelievable. Everyone had a reason and everyone had their moments in the story.

“I have brought a mother for you, Vasochka,” said Pyotr, looking her over with a raised eyebrow. She was covered in bits of tree. “Though I did not tell her she was getting a wood-sprite instead of a little girl.” But he kissed her grubby cheek and she giggled.

I fell in so deep with this book both times I read it and I honestly can’t wait to read the next two. And I get to read them alongside the author herself!

You can join in on the read-a-long on Katherine Arden’s Instagram!  Check it out and join in on the fun! We have spoiler-free discussions weekly. There should be an announcement soon for the start of the upcoming read-along in February for The Girl in the Tower. The read-along for The Winter of the Witch will be going on in March. JOIN US!

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