Editor's Note: Before you stroll the streets on First Fridays in downtown Bend, check out this monthly review, featuring a reading recommendation courtesy of the Source and Dudley's Bookshop Café. Then head down to the shop for a discount on the book!
If I can convince you to pick up a copy of Katherine Arden's "The Bear and the Nightingale," you'll be holding the perfect winter read to get you through these long, chilly nights.
If you liked Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" or Naomi Novik's "Uprooted," you're in familiar territory, though Arden mines the rich world of Russian fairy tales to create a story both familiar and uniquely her own.
Set in the northern reaches of 14th century Russia, it begins with young Vasya and her siblings huddled around the fireplace listening to their nurse tell tales about Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon and the wise Russians who fear him. It's the perfect opening that sets the stage for what's to come.
When Vasya's mother dies and her father brings back a new wife from Moscow, Vasya finds escape from her devout, manic stepmother among the spirits of the natural world. The stepmother forbids Vasya to honor these fey spirits and soon the town begins to sicken and suffer misfortune. Perhaps these spirits protect them from more than they know.
As the story moves forward and a stranger inadvertently brings dark powers ever closer to the fore, Vasya turns to the spirit world for help including Frost, the Winter Demon himself. What ensues is a tale that embodies everything we love about myth and folklore, romance and tragedy.
"The Bear and the Nightingale" is a wonderful, engaging story that many will enjoy. Given everything going on in the world, give yourself a free pass to read something for no other reason than the pure enjoyment of the tale.