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“I waited for you winterlong”

bear and the nightingale

I chose this book when we were in the midst of the Polar Vortex because it seemed like a great cold weather book, and it was. It was also a beautifully written fairy tale of a historical fantasy novel that is the first of a trilogy. The story centers on takes place in medieval Russia and centers on Vasilia Petrovna, the youngest daughter of lord of a remote village. The villagers have always left offerings for the various forest and household spirits of Russian folklore but Vasya is actually able to see and speak with them. She soon catches the eye of Morzko, the Frost King who wants to claim her for his own for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but him. The real trouble begins when Vasya’s father returns with an fiercely pious wife from Moscow (Vasya’s mother died when she was born). The wicked stepmother is followed shortly by a charismatic new priest who frightens the villagers out of worshipping the old gods and spirits. Soon the village is beset by crop failures and bad luck which they blame on the “witch-woman” Vasilia.

There was never a moment that I was not completely enraptured by this store and this writing. It’s definitely not necessary to wait until mid-winter to feel the wind and the chill or the warmth of the kitchen oven that is the center of the family life in Vasya’s home. Yes there is an “evil stepmother” but she’s more tragic than she is truly evil. The characters are richly drawn and the imagery is lovely. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who wants to get lost in a fairly tale for a little while.

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