CBR 13 Bingo Square: Landscape
Genuine question: It seemed when Cannonball Book Club was announced The Bear and the Nightingale was presented as a reimagining of Rumpelstiltskin, as that was the fairytale linked to for reading the original. I don’t see a comparison? Is there something I’m missing? Or was I incorrect in that the two were paired together in that way? Would love to know how others interpret as this feels more like “Cinderella” crossed with “The Twelve Months”.
For Cannonball Book Club, I had intended to read Sea Witch because I love “The Little Mermaid” and its many adaptations, from the original Hans Christen Anderson to Disney. Leigh Bardugo did a great take on it in her, The Language of Thorns, a collection of fairytales she wrote that exist in the Grishaverse. But time got away from me and The Bear and the Nightingale was sitting on my shelf from when I reviewed it in 2017. Glancing through the reviews for this book, I feel like the odd person out among Cannonballers.
In my memory, the book was OK, not great, not bad, just good. On the first reading, I rated it 3 1/2 stars because I enjoyed it at the time but a few weeks after, when sitting down to write the review, found there wasn’t much that particularly stood out to me. Looking back at that review was a little painful, as it wasn’t a review so much as it was a summary. I like to think my reviewing has improved in the intervening four years! At the time I responded to a comment saying, “At the very end Vasya rides off like a bad ass so I would be curious to read potential future books as they may be more supernatural and adventurous than this tale which only seems to hit it’s stride at the end.”
Finishing up this re-read of The Bear and the Nightingale has me standing by those two statements. There are several things I liked about the story, such as the world building setting of a medieval Russia (Rus’), the incorporation of household fae (chyerti) with protective abilities, and that the horses teach Vasya how to ride. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, it makes sense that a horse would be the best teacher for how to ride. The book stumbles with how prosaic it is. It opens with a fairytale that tells the reader exactly what to expect and it doesn’t barely deviate. Unfortunately this read through suffers from comparison to Spinning Silver, which I read last year and found to be amazing.
I did approach the book differently this time knowing that it is the first in a series. The fact that The Bear and the Nightingale doesn’t take off until the end makes more sense knowing that this is the start of a bigger story. There are elements that I like so it is worth checking out the next in the series to see where Arden takes the story, now that it no longer has the baggage of a long back story that had to follow a formula to get through.
I’m looking forward to discussing this book during Book Club.