5 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Katherine Arden

Bee Reviews: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

- the bear and the nightingaleFormat: Paperback, 430 pages

Published: 5th October 2017 by Del Rey

Genres: Fantasy, historical fiction, fairy tales

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery | Waterstones


Synopsis

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…


Review

So, this book was bought for me as a gift. And what a GREAT gift it was. I’ll explain in this review exactly why this book was perfect for me, and why you should read it too.

Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.

So, I’m a Psychology student, and something that we have touched on in class is the concept of a “collective unconscious”. This is basically a part of the unconscious mind that is shared with pretty much everyone in any given circle. Arguably, folk stories, fairy tales – these all contribute to the collective unconscious. If you spoke to any random person in the streets of Britain and started talking to them about, say, Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, they would know exactly what you’re talking about. You’re on the same wavelength. Magical stories like The Bear and the Nightingale also contribute to the collective unconscious, by weaving together beloved Russian folk stories to make the most magnificent fantasy novel.

“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.”

The only thing that tops a fairy tale for me, is a fairy tale from a different culture – it’s fascinating getting an insight into a whole world I didn’t know existed. I’m thrilled to find out this book is part of a trilogy and I can’t wait to read the second installment!

Sleep is cousin to death, Vasya. And both are mine.

I don’t know how Katherine Arden manages to write a fantasy novel that is also so relatable. Although she can see things no one else can, Vasya is just like us. She is spirited, she is headstrong, she is both troubling and troublesome. Although her trials and tribulations are as different as can be from the average person, Vasya is an entirely wholesome protagonist.

It is a cruel task, to frighten people in God’s name.

It’s not just Vasya – I could read a whole novel about any one of the characters. Lovely Olga, sweet Irina, Marina and Pyotr’s backstory, Dushya, Sasha – Arden could release a trilogy on one or all of these characters and I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

There is magic in your bones. You must reckon with it.

Fair warning: tears *might* be shed. The story has twists and turns, and there’s a lot of love and laughter, but also some loss. More than anything, this is a heart-warming fantasy that anyone can sink right into. I don’t normally compare authors to authors or books to books, but if you loved Uprooted by Naomi Novik, or anything by Eva Ibbotson, you will for sure love The Bear and the Nightingale.

But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.

Tip: there’s a glossary of words at the end of the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this until I got to the end.

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5 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Samantha Shannon, Sci-Fi

Bee Reviews: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3)

the song rising alternate cover

Format: Kindle edition, 384 pages

Published: March 7th 2017 by Bloomsbury

Genre(s): Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…


Review

I have to admit, I was anxious to read this book for the same reason the author was anxious to write it: the fear of being let down/letting people down. I thought back to all the TV shows I’ve ever watched where the first couple of series were amazing and then suddenly it went downhill and you wonder where it went wrong. But this? You can tell how in touch Shannon is with her characters and her world that she managed to produce another fabulous novel. There’s an art to writing a series, and much more so a septology (further reading: J. K. Rowling), that few writers can master – and Shannon is right up there with them.

The third book in the series is every bit action-packed as promised. I’ve been busted a few times by colleagues at work from where I’ve been unable to stow my Kindle away quick enough because this book is just that good. There’s a lot of world-expanding here as there have been in the first two books which some authors might find off-putting to write about but Shannon takes it in her stride.

I imagined, too. And so imagination became my nemesis; my mind created monsters out of nothing.

To put into perspective just how much I love this book: I rarely delve into the fantasy genre anymore. I’ve been let down time and time again by fantasy / YA authors (and you only have to scroll back a few posts for an example). But this is the one fantasy series I would recommend to anyone who’s never tried out the genre before. Everything is just extraordinarily thought out, you could almost believe it were real – and that’s before you compare the political agenda of Scion 2059 to real life 2017.

Another favourite about this novel is that Shannon doesn’t do the typical fantasy / YA thing and kill for shock value. Everything is calculated and you could almost believe Shannon cares as much about her characters’ welfare as the typical overly-emotional reader (such as myself). That said, I did nearly cry on the bus when a character died – as often is the case in war – but it would have been unrealistic if no one ever died.

What I will tell you is that you cannot force yourself to mourn. Sometimes, the best way to honour the dead is to simply keep living. In war, it is the only way.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the remaining four novels, and if there’s a two-year gap between each novel, then so be it. A masterpiece doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m glad to witness the creative journey that is The Bone Season series.

My only qualm with this novel is that everyone knows going from Folkestone to Calais is much better than going from Dover to Calais, but I might just be showing my roots here.

4 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, William Horwood

Bee Reviews: Hyddenworld (Spring) by William Horwood

hyddenworld william horwoodFormat: Paperback, 505 pages

Published: January 1st 2011 by Pan Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon


Synopsis

It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation.

But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident – it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.

Their journey begins with Spring…


Review

This book had me feeling mixed emotions initially. It’s very confusing, so, readers, sit tight! This is by no means a light read, but a very rewarding one. Horwood has an exceptional imagination, and his style of writing is otherworldly. This is a comment recycled over and over again by critics, but there truly is something Tolkienish about Horwood’s writing.

The things I didn’t like about this book include that it was confusing, long-winded, said something in several chapters that could have been written in one. Again – very Tolkienish. There was also something magical, enchanting, bewitching about this novel, and I can’t wait to continue the adventure in the sequels! I hope they’re just as spectacular, and the reading experience is just as enthralling as it has been for this one.

Fantasy, J R R Tolkien, Samantha Shannon, Sara Raasch, Top 5 Wednesday, YA Fantasy

Top 5 Wednesday: Five Fantasy Books On Your TBR

(This is part of a meme hosted by the Top 5 Wednesday Goodreads group.)

Again, my top five list is rather lacking, so if you have any great fantasy reads that I’m missing out on, please let me know!

1. The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3) is the most anticipated fantasy novel of the year. This series follows Paige Mahoney, now-Underqueen of London’s criminal population, as she navigates life as a clairvoyant in the 2050s. The third novel in the septology promises to be just as captivating and dangerous as the 2.5 books before it.

2. Beren and Lúthien is the latest posthumous novel to be released by J. R. R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien). This love story promises to be very different to your typical romance novels. A forbidden love between a mortal man and an immortal Elf is by no means an easy when your father-in-law sets you on a mission that puts everything, including your life, at stake.

3. Okay, I know that Frost Like Night by @sararaasch (Snow Like Ashes #3) has been on my TBR pile for a very long time, but I’m too uncertain about what I’m going to do with my life when I finally put this series to rest! The final installment that follows Miera’s struggle in bringing the kingdoms of Primoria together to fight the Decay that threatens their land is, I’m sure, going to be every bit action-packed as it sounds.

Do any of these books particularly take your fancy? Is there anything obvious that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!