Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale // a disappointing lack of atmospheric writing

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Warnings: implied rape
Rating: 1 star
Add to Goodreads
DNF at 30%

I feel incredibly guilty that my first read of 2017 ended up being one I won't be finishing, even more so because I was provided an e-copy of it for review.

The setting suits the themes and ideas of the story perfectly, but it lacked any magical essence for me. Snowy forests have a sort of fantasy behind them just in the concept, but I didn't feel the connection to it. I've seen a lot of people describe this book as atmospheric, but that descriptor resides not in the language and largely in the concept, which for me was not strong enough to carry the story. For me to have enjoyed it more there had to be either incredibly vivid langauge, a powerfully compelling plot, or engaging charaters, and The Bear and the Nightingale (in my view) had strengths in none of these things.

I was also not a fan of the perspective on women shared by many of the characters, specifically the men. With lines like "he kissed her until defiance turned to passion" and "the work of women was to bear children" had me a little uneasy, especially with how much lines like these were repeated with nobody putting them into question. BUT I completely acknowledge that these views were part of the era the book is set, and perhaps it would have helped if I actually finished the book.

I had largely assumed from the cover and the description that this would be an incredibly atmpospheric and beautifully written book, so it fell short of my expectations. In no way do I think this is a bad book or would I tell anyone not to read it. But the story simply could not hold my attention for long enough for me to choose to continue it.

A copy of this book was provided to me via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Aw, I have the same expectations given the cover. So sad to see it didn't live up to it.

    And those sentences and warning? EW. Passing this one up sounds like a good idea.

    1. Yeah it was disappointing - I'm not sure what everyone else was seeing that I wasn't. And yup those sentences were very uncomfortable to read. I haven't seen many people complain about that so maybe the book started with lines like that to prove them wrong? I don't know since I didn't finish, but I do hope that's the case.